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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

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Fourth straight ‘W’ – this one over Tulane – steps the Tigers forward

Streaking and peaking, the University of Memphis Tigers beat back the Tulane Green Wave in a manner that prompted the losing coach to take note after its 80-69 outcome.

“It’s one of the better games they played all year,” Tulane head coach Perry Hunter said of the Tigers, who beat the Green Wave by a single point in the teams’ first encounter this season. “I thought that Memphis did a great job starting the game.”

From Hunter’s vantage point, the Tigers’ ability to establish their physicality was a tone-setter, along with Memphis being able to connect from deep and get the crowd into the game.

Alex Lomax (6 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds) celebrates after Memphis’ win – its fourth in a row – against Tulane. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

“Give them credit, they made threes,” said Hunter. “I don’t think they made that many threes all year.

The win was the fourth straight for Memphis (13-8, 7-4 American Athletic Conference), kindling NCAA Tournament hopes that dwindled as the Tigers fell from a Top-10 perch.

Jumping to a 12-4 lead from the opening tip, Memphis led most of the first half, which saw Tulane scrap back to a 27-27 tie with 4:33 remaining. A 10-3 surge by the Tigers gave them a 37-30 advantage at halftime.

Memphis led by 17 points (57-40) with 14:07 left in the game. Tulane trimmed the lead to five points on two occasions, with the Tigers answering each charge.

Penny Hardaway and the Tigers are taking winning in stride as they head into a stretch of games that could go a long way in determining if they reach their goal of an NCAA Tournament berth. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

“I’m celebrating all Ws ’cause I know how hard they are to come by,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said.

“We played some really good minutes this game where we played really good defense and then we go through those lulls of five to six minutes … so trying to be more consistent but definitely proud of the proud of the win.”

Memphis dominated the glass (19 offensive rebounds), outrebounding Tulane 49-26. The defense limited the Golden Wave to 33 percent shooting, with Tulane missing on 16 of 28 three-pointers. One of the best teams in the country in blocking shots, Memphis had 10 against Tulane.

Jalen Duren (left) and DeAndre Williams team up for one of the Memphis Tigers’ 10 blocks. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

Jalen Duren continued his dominance. He had another double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) and two blocks.

“He’s ready for the physicality of the game,” Hardaway said of the freshman Duren. “He understands now after going through one cycle of playing these teams how they’re going to play him. He’s more mentally ready for the game … he knows they’re gonna try to play him physical and he’s already ready for it.”

Duren said he realizes that he is “going to get a lot of attention now, a lot of physicality. I am not going to shy away from that. I am going to bring the physicality if they don’t bring it. It is nothing to me.  I am just ready to go and play.”

De’Andre Williams had 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in a starting role as he gets back into the flow and settles into his game following an injury absence.

“I feel like I am already there mentally,” said Williams. It has never left me. I thought I was going to be out of shape, but when I came back, I felt good. I am just going to continue to get better and stack up wins.”

Tyler Harris had 14 points off the bench and Lester Quinones had 11 points, connecting on three 3-pointers.

Tulane (10-11, 7-5 AAC) was led by Jaylen Forbes (24 points, 9 rebounds) and Jalen Cook (11 points, 4 assists). Tulane’s seven wins in the conference are the most ever for the Green Wave.

Next up for the Tigers will be a highly anticipated matchup with the Houston Cougars on Saturday (Feb. 12) in Houston. The Cougars (20-3, 9-1) were ranked No. 6 in the nation before their loss (85-83) to SMU (17-5, 8-2) on Wednesday night.

The Tigers end their regular season against Houston at FedExForum on March 6.

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