Hardaway, Tigers seek to bounce back from disappointing tourney

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by Terry Davis

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

The Memphis Tigers returned to Memphis with a (3-3) record after losing two out of three games in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando Florida last week. 

Head Coach Penny Hardaway was not pleased with his team after the blowout loss to Oklahoma State (84-64) in the opening game. After inserting Raynere Thornton and Mike Parks Jr. as starters, the Tigers defeated Canisius, 71-63 in the next game before losing to Charleston 78-75.

“We have got to play better defense as a team,” he said. “We have to take the challenge one-on-one and not look for help and do the tough things to win basketball games.

“We are in games. We just have to find a way to finish them,” he said.

Here are a few things the Tigers will need to focus on to improve:

Turnovers

On multiple occasions, Hardaway has said that a guard-dominated team like his should not have as many turnovers as they do.  Through six games, Memphis has 97 turnovers. But many of those have been in the worst part of the game.  Against LSU, the Tigers turned the basketball over three times in a one-minute stretch, turning a close game into a comfortable win for LSU. 

On defense, the Tigers have been forcing opponents to turn the basketball over – 107 turnovers so far. But they have not been capitalizing off of their opponents turnovers.

Defense

Defense is about effort and Hardaway feels his team is not putting the right amount of effort into the process and that they are gambling too much. 

The Tigers are scoring 78.5 points per game and allowing 78.8 points per game. The Tigers have been giving up open layups, which has contributed to them allowing opponents to shoot 46.3 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from arc.

During his weekly radio show at the Bluff on Monday, Hardaway told the crowd that he needed to make an adjustment to his full-court pressure defensive style, to reduce the high number of layups the team was allowing. 

Rebounds and free throws

Memphis has been badly outrebounded in losses this season.  Lack of size was always going to be an issue for the Tigers this season; while Alex Lomax is savvy beyond his years and Tyler Harris is a scoring machine, neither one is six feet tall. And there are exactly zero 7-footers on the squad.

Usually, guard-focused teams are good free-throw shooting teams, and while the Tigers are passable from the line at 64.7 percent (70 percent is generally considered average) , there’s still room for improvement. Surprisingly, senior Jeremiah Martin is only shooting 54.8 percent from the free throw line. 

The Memphis Tigers play Texas Tech on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 1:30 CST in Miami. The game will be televised on ESPNU.