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Memphis Tigers complete dramatic comeback win over UAB, 106-87

When their backs are against the wall, it seems the Memphis Tigers basketball team plays their best.

With their tournament hopes on the brink and after falling into a 22-point first half deficit against UAB, Memphis roared back in the second half to get the win, 106-87. 

The victory avenged a 97-88 loss to UAB earlier this season. Memphis is only the second team in the country to win by 15 points when trailing by 20 in the same game since 2015. With their fourth consecutive win, the Tigers have played their way back onto the NCAA bubble.

“I can feel the movement of this team, even though we had a bad first half,” said Tigers Coach Penny Hardaway. “I feel God has a plan for this team. For what we have gone through, what we have faltered, and how we have come out, I never gave up.

“I knew we had to get that lead to at least 10 before the first timeout. We never looked back.”

Battling back to get in the game would have worn out many teams, but Memphis kept their collective feet on the gas.

“We finally hit our stride,” Hardaway said. “We got into a rhythm both offensively and defensively. We gained more energy. We saw them getting tired. We went higher.”

The Tigers allowed 61 points in a challenging first half, trailing by as many as 22 points. The Blazers shot 68 percent from the field and connected on 8 three-pointers. Despite this, the Tigers initiated a 7-0 run to close the half, highlighted by a Jahvon Quinerly half-court shot, trailing 61-47 at halftime. Quinerly scored 20 points in the first half.

Starting the second half with a 6-0 run, the Tigers forced an early timeout by Blazers’ coach Andy Kennedy. This 13-0 run reignited the crowd and the team’s energy.

Hardaway observed, “I may have seen this done before in the NBA. How fast it happened really shocked me. It was weird sitting there to witness that. It was unbelievable watching these young men fight so hard and scrap.”

The run extended to 20-0, bringing the Tigers within two points. Frustrated with the officiating, Kennedy was ejected after receiving two technical fouls. David Jones then made four free throws to give the Tigers the lead (65-63), and the momentum continued.

Alejan Vasquez led the Blazers with 18 points, but Memphis dominated the second half, maintaining the lead. Jones finished with 32 points and 9 rebounds, Quinerly had 25 points, and Nae’Qwan Tomlin set a career-high with 28 points and 7 rebounds. Jaykwon Walton added 13 rebounds, and the Tigers capitalized on 33 points from the Blazers’ 18 turnovers.

Hardaway commented on Tomlin’s performance and his battle with foul trouble, “He gets a tough whistle because he is small. I would rather for him to be aggressive but smarter. We are down Malcolm. He has to play against bigger guys. If that is four fouls and staying in the game, I am good with that.”

Jones shared his NCAA tournament aspirations, “I can’t do it without my teammates. I talk to them about how I want to have the chance to play in it before I get out. I want to get that feeling. Once we’re there, it’s going to be hard to beat us. We are coming together. JQ told me two weeks ago that we are not losing again. I feel that we are supporting and making that dream come true.” An emotional senior ceremony surprised Jones when his sister walked onto the court.

Next up for the Tigers is a pivotal game against Florida Atlantic on Saturday, March 9, at 11 am, broadcast nationally on CBS. The game is crucial for both teams, with FAU looking to maintain the second seed and the Tigers aiming for the fourth seed in the conference.

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