Day two of the four day tourney was a smoother ride for the Memphis Tigers. They easily defeated the University of Central Florida Knights 79-55 to advance to the semi-finals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The size and presence of Tacko Falls had an immediate impact on the game. Falls missed his opening shot, but he was able to get his own rebound and gave the Knights and early 2-0 lead. The Knights pulled out to an 11-4 early advantage.
Falls left the game and the Tigers went on a 7-0 run to get the crowd back in the game and to tie the score (11-11). Falls returned to the game after the Tigers tied it. Tyler Harris hit a three- pointer to extend the run. Falls finally ended the run at 12-0 with another dunk with 9:15 left in the half. The Knights still trailed the Tigers (16-13).
The Tigers did not veer far from the game plan and went into the halftime with a (37-27). The Tigers were able to get Falls out of the half early when committed his second personal foul with five minutes left in the half.
The Tigers were aggressive, but did a great job avoiding fouls. UCF did not attempt a free throw in the first half. The Tigers were 8-10 from the free throw line. The Tigers out-rebounded the Knights 18-14.
During the post-game press conference on Thursday Penny Hardaway said that he needed both Mike Parks Jr. and Isiah Maurice to perform at a high level. Both so far have produced with career numbers. Parks had a career game with 14 points in 13 rebounds in the win over Tulane.
Against UCF it was Maurice time to shine with a career high in points 21 points. Early in the season Maurice could not stay on the court because he was in foul trouble a lot. Lately he has been playing harder without getting into foul trouble.
On the win Hardaway said, “It was an unbelievable great game for us. Anytime you play a team three times in a season, teams know each other. It just comes down to will and making shots and make game winning plays. Our team did that for the entire game, and I am proud of them”.
During the middle of the season Hardaway instituted his hustle board. That was a way to get his team to do the little things or the dirty work has he called it. On how he would do the hustle board for this game Hardaway said, “This one passes the eye test. We don’t have to go to the hustle board for this one. Playing desperate is where are right now. That is the road that we have to take. We understand that every possession counts. That is how we are playing now”.
Martin had only 7 points with seven minutes left in the game, but the Tigers had a (60-40) lead. A month ago, Martin had to put the team on his shoulder. Now the team is more as a unit. The Tigers were having and enjoying the big advantage. On the win Martin said, “It was great crowd and great effort by our team”.
On the development of the team Martin said, “Our team is getting better. Other teams feel if they take me out of the game that we are going to lose. That is not true. I have a lot of confidence in our team. Once I make the right play then it is on my teammates to make the next play. I know it is a lot of pressure, but we have a lot of weapons”.
Kyron Davenport played one of his emotional games this season. Davenport is not known to do a lot of talking on the court. Did not mind saying a few words. Davenport finished with a double-double 16 points and 11 rebounds.
BJ Taylor entered the game with 16.2 points average per game, finished with only 9 points. Falls had 12 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Knights.
The Tigers improve to (21-12) and will play the Houston Cougars in the first of two semi-finals games on Saturday March 15. The game will tip off at 2 pm central and can be seen on ESPN2. The Tigers lost the only meeting this season to Houston 90-77 at Houston.