by Terry Davis —
When the Memphis Tigers take on the Bearcats in Cincinnati on Sunday they will do so knowing their head coach does not like ugly, as in 26 turnovers, even when the outcome is a win.
Just such a showing Wednesday at FedExForum against Tulane was “to be expected” after an 18-day, COVID-19 safety layoff, said Penny Hardaway, assessing his team’s 61-46 victory and putting it in the context of the rest of season.
“We got the win to keep ourselves in the conversation (for the regular American Athletic Conference title). You have to win your home games. Now we have to go on the road and take care of business. It was a struggle being off for two weeks and only have four days to prepare.”
Memphis (13-6, 9-3 American) has won seven of its last eight games to stay in the hunt for a coveted NCAA Tournament bid. The Tigers are third in the AAC, trailing Wichita State (9-2) and Houston (12-3).
DeAndre Williams – 11 rebounds, six points and five assists – said the team has “a lot of confidence and a lot of players that can do a lot of things. We feel like we are a tournament team. We are letting coach Hardaway lead us. We have to stay focused on the goal. We can’t look past any game.”
Memphis had a troubling 13 first-half turnovers. The Green Wave, however, only scored eight points off those turnovers. Neither team shot well to start the game. With 12:40 left in the first half, the Tigers held a 10-5 lead.
Boggie Ellis’ 16 points made him the only double-digit scorer. He connected on three of his six three-pointers in the first half, pacing the Tigers with 9 points. Two of the threes came in the last two minutes of the half to push the Tigers’ halftime advantage to 31-21.
“I feel like I have my confidence back,” said Ellis. “I am playing hard for my team and focused on winning.”
Memphis’ energy level was noticeably higher after the break would come out with more energy in the second half. The lead bulged to 13 (41-28) when Damion Baugh put in a layup at the 12:37 mark.
Things got a little chippy with 11:09 left in the game. Several Tigers and Green Wave players exchanged words and the teams had to be separated.
Several players left their bench areas, which prompted technical fouls and ejection. Memphis’ Lester Quinones and Tulane’s Kevin Cross and Jadan Coleman were removed from the game.
After the Tigers’ D.J. Jeffries made his free throw, Landers Nolley II made two free throws (assessed on the technicals) and the lead stretched to its largest (45-28) of the game.
Memphis had another 13 turnovers in the second half. Continuing his good-ugly assessment, Hardaway said, “We smashed them on the glass. We did not give them many second-chance opportunities. The ugly was 16 assists. We are trying to get at least 20-22 assists a game. Another good was our guards rebounded well tonight. We held them to 25 percent (shooting) and that is all good.”
Notes and next:
- Moussa Cissé and D.J. Jeffries only played three minutes each. Both picked up two quick fouls and were relegated to spending 17 minutes on the bench. Malcolm Dandridge stepped up in the absence of Cissé, with six points and three rebounds in eight minutes of action in the half.
- Memphis out-rebounded the Green Wave 53-29.
- Cincinnati – Memphis’ opponent on Sunday (Feb. 28) – has 5-5 AAC record and is 7-8 overall.
- The Tigers’ game next week against South Florida was moved up a day to Tuesday (March 2).