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UPDATED: Tigers cruise to a win over East Carolina on Senior Day

 

The Memphis Tigers entered the last game of the regular season before heading to Orlando, Florida for the American Athletic Conference on Thursday March 8.

The Tigers came into Sunday’s game wounded from the embarrassing loss to the University of South Florida Bulls at home last week 75-51. South Florida only has two AAC wins this season and one came against the Tigers.

But the Tigers rebounded nicely and defeat the East Carolina Pirates 90-70 in front of 6,474 fans at FedExForum. With the win, the Tigers secures the fifth seed in the AAC tournament later this week. The Tigers will have an opportunity to get some revenge for the loss to the Bulls — their first round matchup is against USF.

Memphis came out with the energy they lacked against USF. The combination of Kareem Brewton Jr. on the outside, Kyvon Davenport and Mike Parks Jr. on the inside was too much for the undermanned Pirates. Brewton Jr. scored 15 points on 7-10 shooting in the first half. Parks added nine points on 3-5 shooting and Davenport had 14 points on 4-5 shooting.

The game was a back and forth affair, with both teams taking leads throughout the first half. In their Feb. 3 matchup, the Pirates made a season-high 11 3-pointers on the way to a 88-85 overtime win over the Tigers. It was a different story Sunday, with Memphis holding ECU to only fie 3-pointers in today’s game.

The 3-pointers kept the Pirates close to the Tigers in the first half, when they made four of 12 from the arc. The score was 28-25 in favor of the Tigers with 6:55 left in the first half. The Tigers closed the half on a 17-5 run to take a 40-35 lead into the intermission.

The Tigers did not let up in the second half, pushing their lead to as many as 30 on two occasions — the last coming at the 10:05 mark of the second half with the score 70-40. ECU never seriously threatened after that.

Brewton Jr. finished the game with a career-high 22 points. Parks added 20 points including a breakaway reverse dunk that his teammates teased him after the game during the post-game press conference.

Davenport joked that Parks’ dunk was only worth a “2” on a scale to 10, while Brewton rated it as a 6 before upgrading and then changed it to a “7” for a big man. Tigers Head Coach Tubby Smith got into the grading of the dunk and said for Parks Jr. it was a 10.

With 5:01 remaining and the Tigers up 80-55 Rivers was ejected after receiving his second technical foul of the game. This was the first career ejection for Rivers as a Tiger. Rivers is one of two seniors on the team along with Alex Moffatt. Both players were recognized along with their families before the game.

Moffatt entered the game with 3:09 left to play and to delight of the faithful fans that remained. Every time Moffatt touched the ball the crowd cheered, pushing him to shoot but Moffatt only had one shot attempt and it rimmed out.

The Tigers were in a great mood during the post-game press conference. The Tigers have won five of their last six games heading into the conference tournament. The Tigers have great confidence in their ability to win the AAC tournament this week.

The Tigers (18-12, 10-8) finish the season with the exact record they did last year. The difference with this team from last season is this team is not ready to end the season and would like to play more basketball. The Tigers were predicted to finish in ninth or worst place in the preseason prediction. Smith has been quick to point out that this had the number one ranked recruiting class coming into the season. He also admits that he may not have a highly touted player, but he does have the talent to compete on a nightly basis.

The Tigers will face South Florida on Thursday March 8, at 1 p.m. Central Time at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. If the Tigers beat USF, they will face the fourth seeded Tulsa Hurricanes at 1 p.m. Central on Friday March 9. The Tigers split the season series against the Hurricanes winning at home and losing on the road.

Post-game quotes

Mike Parks Jr., when asked about the regret of not playing every game and losing a few games this season, because lack of effort: “We know how we can play. It is difficult when we don’t play that way, but we just get it out of minds and move on to the next game.”

Kareem Brewton Jr., on coming off a performance against South Florida on how reassuring it is knowing the last game was just a blip: “It feels good. It just boosts our confidence going into tournament play.”

Brewton Jr., on facing South Florida in the first round after the last week’s loss: “We are going to play them like a top team. We did not do that in the last game. We have to come out with harder intensity.” Parks Jr. interjected and said, “We owe them. We have to make up for the last game and we have to what we have to do.”

Brewton on Jimario Rivers: “He don’t get in your face and try to criticize anyone’s game. He just tries to help you.”

Kyvon Davenport on the mental and physical preparations on potentially playing four games in four days: “We have to stay focus and to continue to get better throughout the whole time. We also have to take care of our bodies. We can’t get our bodies overwhelmed. We have to keep ice and make sure we are healthy. We have to be ready and prepared to play the games.”

Coach Tubby Smith on the game:  “I thought we had a good overall effort. We did the right things. We had some good balance in our scoring. The key was our defensive effort from the beginning. We set a good tone with the number of deflections in the first half. I am happy to see Jimario and Alex leave on a win. Rebounding and assists were the key.”

Smith on Jimario Rivers: “He has been our vocal leader, too much today. He has been the tough guy, even though he may not appear physically to be an intimidating guy. He can control the game with defensive ability. He has gotten the most of his physical ability. He has athleticism. He doesn’t shoot it that well, but passes the ball well, defense and rebounds.”

Smith on Kareem Brewton Jr.: “He really stepped up today. He really struggled going 1 for 10. We had a film session and he saw what the things needed to do. He is a scorer and he has a scorer mentality. South Florida did some thing to us that we have to be conscious of going forward. Brewton ran the team the right way. He controlled the tempo for the most part. He made some good decision, but most importantly was his defense.”

On carrying momentum into the rematch with USF: “I have been coaching a long time and I have never seen that in my 45 years of coaching. I don’t know why, but it is what it is. We stunk it up so bad. Adversity will do that to you. Our guys came together. They were embarrassed, I was. I did a poor job of getting them ready. To see them respond like this with the defensive effort. We had to do some things to get their defensive attention. The thing that hurt me the most was not respecting the opponent. The lack of respect that they showed.”

 

 

 

 

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