PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — David Jones had a career-high 36 points and five steals to help Memphis beat No. 20 Arkansas 84-79 on Thursday in a semifinal game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Memphis (5-0) will face Villanova in the title game on Friday. Arkansas (4-2) faces No. 14 North Carolina for third place.
Jones was 10 for 14 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and 12 of 14 at the line. The 36 points tops the 33 he scored against Louisville on Dec. 10, 2021, while playing for DePaul. Jones became the second Memphis player since 2010 with 34-plus points and four-plus steals in a game, joining Jeremiah Martin.
“What an unbelievable game for a lot of reasons,” said Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway. “I am so proud of this team already showing resiliency so early in the season. I didn’t know what I was going to have (as a team) when I made the schedule. I was just hoping and praying that the team I assemble would be ready for this type of schedule.
“This team is showing me how tough they are mentally and physically. They are giving punches and taking punches, staying together and pulling out some great victories against some great teams. I’m super proud of that and thankful for that on Thanksgiving.”
Jones was asked how he felt after his performance.
“I feel good. We go the win,” he said.
“This man here,” said Jones, tapping Hardaway on the shoulder and responding to how he was able to turn in a career-high points performance. “He gave us all the confidence in the world to just go out there and play hard.”
Focused on defense, he “started making shots,” said Jones.
Hardaway said his game plan every night is to “let all our guys cook. It’s really a situation where my team knows freedom on offense and I’m gonna get it at you defensively. That’s just how it works. We’re gonna play defense and the guy that has the hot hand, we’re gonna go to.”
Nick Jourdain added 12 points for Memphis, and Jaykwon Walton scored 11. Khalif Battle scored 21 points for Arkansas. Davonte Davis added 15 points, Trevon Brazile had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Tramon Mark scored 12.
Memphis was called for an administrative technical foul with 2:07 left for having six players on the floor. Battle made two free throws to get within 76-69, but the Razorback turned it over on the ensuing possession.
Battle sank a 3-pointer in transition as Arkansas pulled within 76-72 with 1:07 left. After a timeout, Jourdain was left open for a driving layup, extending the lead to six points. Jayhlon Young, Jones and Walton combined for six straight free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal it.