Memphis Tigers get payback with huge win over FAU Owls, 78-74

Victory marks Penny Hardaway's fourth consecutive 20-win season.

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In a highly anticipated rematch, the Memphis Tigers hosted the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls.

Predicted to finish first and second in the preseason, this game was a critical conference showdown, nationally broadcast on ESPN. The Tigers secured a win with a score of 78-74, improving their record to 20-8 and 9-6 in the American Athletic Conference.

This victory marks Coach Penny Hardaway’s achievement of at least 20 wins in every season as the Tigers’ head coach.

Late on Friday, the University of Memphis announced Malcolm Dandridge would be held out of games pending an investigation into possible academic violations. Hardaway could not comment on the situation or when Dandridge might return.

Reflecting on the 20-win milestone, Hardaway said, “The more I look at coaches around the country, you don’t automatically win 20 games a year. That means a lot to me. I don’t take it for granted anymore. I am understanding how hard it is. I am proud to have another 20-win season.”

Discussing the win without Dandridge, Hardaway stated, “Super proud of the team, to play without Malcolm and Jordan Brown who had a bad back. To watch Nae’ Qwan Tomlin and Nick Jordain battle against Vladislav Goldin; they had 11 offensive rebounds between the two of them. Even though Nick did not score, he battled all game and did what he needed to do for us. Tomlin had his best game yet.”

The game’s first ten minutes were tightly contested, with each team leading by no more than four points. The Owls then ramped up their defensive pressure, leading by as many as 8 points. However, the Tigers managed to tie the game at 27-27 with 1:50 left in the first half, thanks to Tomlin’s 11 points. Goldin scored 10 points for FAU in the first half.

At halftime, the statistics were evenly matched. The Owls shot 41 percent and the Tigers 37 percent. The Owls led 31-30 at the break.

In the second half, Memphis quickly gained momentum, leading by as much as 10 points. FAU managed to reduce the lead to a single possession game in the final minute, but Memphis held on for the win.

FAU’s Goldin led with 22 points and 8 rebounds, while Davis contributed 20 points. The Owls outrebounded the Tigers 40-38 but committed more turnovers.

Hardaway praised the team’s low turnover count, especially highlighting Quinerly’s role: “I have been scripting the offense and I think we can be better than that. Six turnovers are great. The ball was in JQ’s (Jahvon Quinerly) hands most of the game. He made great decisions. It wasn’t by committee like it has been. It was in our point guard’s hands and he did a great job.”

Tomlin led the Tigers with 21 points and 8 rebounds, while Jones scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half, also grabbing 11 rebounds. Quinerly played an effective role, finishing with 14 points and 6 assists.

Tomlin expressed his motivation for the game: “Most definitely, going into this game I wanted to get this back. I also wanted to do it for my former team, Kansas State. They beat us in the elite eight. That feeling hurt. I did not only for Memphis, but for my last year’s team.”

Hardaway commended Tomlin’s energy: “His energy was amazing. That was the best energy we have seen from him all season. He had a personal vendetta. He lost to them last season in the elite eight game. FAU can get under your skin. He was looking forward to this game. He was ready to go.”

Next, the Tigers travel to Greenville, NC, to face East Carolina State on Thursday, February 29, at 6 pm CT, airing on ESPN2.