Memphis’ third victory in a row – a reversal-of-fortune defeat of Southern Methodist University at FedExForum Tuesday (Jan. 26) night – was about as satisfying as a four-point (76-72) win could be.
With the win, Memphis, (9-5, 5-2 American) moved into second place in the conference. The Tigers entered the game tied for second place with Wichita State and SMU.
“I am proud of the team for fighting hard … getting back into the game and winning the game,” Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway said.
Memphis got off to a slow start, falling behind 7-0 in the first three minutes of the game. The Tigers were able to cut the deficit to 9-7. The Mustangs answered with a 14-5 run.
Memphis was down by 13 points (26-13) and the Mustangs were shooting more than 60 percent at that point.
Then, Memphis turned up their defensive pressure and went on a 21-5 run to take a 34-31 lead into halftime.
The Tigers started the second half with a 15-7 run thanks to two three-pointers by Landers Nolley II and another by Lester Quinones, which gave the Tigers a 52-43 lead.
The Mustangs responded with a 9-0 run to tie the game at 52. D.J. Jeffries, who has been inconsistent, connected on back-to-back three pointers to match the hot-shooting Mustangs. DeAndre Williams was a force in the second half, scoring all of his 10 points, including two three-pointers.
Memphis had seven turnovers in the first half and only three in the first 19 minutes of the second half before two unforced turnovers in the last minute kept the Mustangs alive.
SMU’s Kendrick Davis thought he had tied the game with 1:40 left when he made a three-point basket as the shot-clock expired. After an official review, the basket was waved off.
The Tigers went to the free-throw line 25 times and were only able to connect on 12 of them. Alex Lomax and Quinones hit two big ones to seal the game in the final minute.
Known for outside scoring, SMU connected on five three-pointers in the first half and seven in the second half to stay in the game. The Mustangs were led by Tyson Jolly’s 15 points, including three from beyond the arc.
Five Tigers were in double digits, led by Lomax with 14 points, Jeffries and Nolley with 12 points each, and Williams and Moussa Cissé with 10 points each.
Cissé grabbed 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double game.
On getting his rhythm back of offense Jeffries said, “It was a big relief. I wouldn’t say I was in a slump, but offensively I was going. Coming out tonight and making shots. I feel like my team needs my scoring. I like doing the little things, but scoring is what I bring. I am happy that I got my rhythm back.”
On being able to close out the game against a quality opponent Hardaway said, “It felt good. We got the leading assist guy in the country and leading scorer in the league in (SMU’s) Kendric Davis. We knew they were high powered. To come into this game and get down by 13 points and keep battling back, it was a win-win for us.”
Jeffries said the Tigers “are finally coming together. We learned from all those five games. We are taking everything we learned from those five losses to build on. We are learning how to overcome adversity. We are learning to be a team. If we can do that the sky is the limit.”
- For the second game, DeAndre Williams had to leave the game. Williams was caught with another elbow while battling for a rebound with Moussa Cisse.
- Jordan Nesbit, a member of the Class of 2021, has enrolled at the university and was spotted on the team’s bench. He has cleared all protocols and is eligible to play this season. Hardaway has not ruled out playing Nesbit this year.
- SMU played without head coach Tim Jankovich, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
- The Tigers next head to Dallas to play the Mustangs on Thursday (Jan. 28) night. The game tips off at 6 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. After that, the Tigers return to FedExForum for four-straight games to start the month of February beginning Monday, Feb. 1, against the University of Central Florida at 7 p.m.