The Memphis Tigers have always had a difficult time beating Cincinnati, ever since Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway played for the Tigers in the early 1990s.
Losers of six straight games against the Bearcats coming into last’s night AAC clash, the #22 ranked Tigers were able to get the monkey off of their backs with a 60-49 victory, which improved the Tigers to 14-3 overall, 3-1 in AAC while dropping the visiting Bearcats to 10-7, 3-2 in conference play.
Here are five takeaways from last night’s game, and what that means going forward this season.
Memphis' Precious Achiuwa records 6th straight double-double in the Tigers' game vs Cincinnati Thursday.
That is the longest double-double streak in AAC history (which dates back to 2013-14). pic.twitter.com/CNtUL8A4Ut
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 17, 2020
Achiuwa’s continued dominance/breaking AAC record: Coming into Thursday’s matchup, Precious Achiuwa was averaging a double-double and been a menace for the entire AAC conference.
Well, Achiuwa continued to assert his dominance. Just ask the Cincinnati defenders trying to guard him.
Achiuwa finished the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while also chipping in 2 assists and 2 blocks as well. He broke the American Athletic Conference record for most consecutive double-doubles (6). Achiuwa played to his full potential last night, terrorizing Bearcat defenders and being a terror on the defensive end, finishing last night’s contest with 2 rejections at the rim as well.
The 6-9 forward showed out in the nationally televised matchup, providing the spark needed to put Memphis over the top.
When DJ Jeffries is healthy and feeling good our Memphis Tigers are tough to deal with. DJ is extremely versatile and can play multiple positions and defend multiple positions!! DJ is that dude!!
— Doc Holliday (@The_DocHolliday) January 17, 2020
Jeffries, fully healed from flu, takes off
Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway absolutely loves the playing style of freshman forward D.J. Jeffries.
“He came out as gunner D.J. tonight”, Hardaway said. “He went 6-13 from the field, and went 4-10 from 3. We need D.J. to be aggressive like this every game.”
Jeffries, who had been hampered by the flu bug in the loss against Georgia, played at a very high level against Cincinnati, leading the Tigers with 18 points and 4 rebounds. He scored the first 6 points for the Tigers (two threes).
It was a nice bounce-back game for the 6-7 Jeffries, who had been coming off of back to back contests in which he scored 3 points (against Wichita State and the University of South Florida).
If Jeffries continues to perform like he did last night, the Tigers will be even more dangerous in the AAC regular-season title race.
Ellis’s struggles continue, but there’s still hope
For the second straight game, Boogie Ellis simply was not able to find the mark, from the field or from the free-throw line.
The San Diego native finished 0-3 from the field, 0-2 from the three-point line. He’s been struggling big time the last few games, and last night played a season-low nine minutes. However, Hardaway expressed that Ellis’s best may be still to come.
“We will continue to play him more minutes, but he simply has to go out there and produce,” Hardaway said of Ellis. “He’s in a slump right now, but hopefully he will break out of it.”
Ellis has averaged 2.4 points per game the last five contests, well below his season average of almost 7 per contest.
The former 4-star recruit will have to break out if he still wants to be a part of the Tigers rotation, as there simply is no time for the redevelopment of players as the team surges through conference play.
Tiger defense can win them games in March
As one of the top defensive teams in the nation, the Tigers regularly flexed their muscle on a very solid Cincinnati squad.
Cincinnati was uncomfortable the entire night, as the Bearcats shot 18-60 from the field, for a putrid 30 percent. At one point throughout the contest, they had only shot 4-20 from the field.
The Tigers combined for eight steals and eight blocks throughout the contest while forcing 16 turnovers in the contest.
Bearcat starters shot 17-54 from the field, as reigning AAC Conference Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland led the Bearcats with 19 points. However, even he got off to a slow start as Hardaway threw several different defensive assignments at the star forward.
With defensive performances like last night, the Tigers have no way to go but upward. And deep into March.