The Memphis-Central Florida stat line for the Tigers’ Landers Nolley II read 30 minutes, 10 rebounds, zero assists and 18 points. In total, it added up to a major contribution to Memphis’ 75-61 victory at FedExForum on Thursday night.
On the strength of his double-double in points and rebounds, Nolley added evidence to the observation that he is becoming more consistent and has stepped up his game.
“I just started to slow down and take what the game gives me,” Nolley said postgame. “I don’t go into a game or possession knowing what I am going to do. I look at what the defense gives me, and I make my decision on what I am going to do.”
With the Tigers up by seven (30-23) and leaving the court at halftime, Nolley, who was heading to the locker room, turned back toward the bench to get his head band. He spotted a fan (yes, a limited number were allowed into the arena) and then ran over to give the young fan the head band as souvenir.
“No, I did not know him,” Nolley said. “I saw a little kid, he asked me the last game, but I had already promised it (the head band) to someone else. “I told him I would get him this game. I made sure; I couldn’t forget.”
For Nolley and the Tigers (11-6, 7-3 American Athletic Conference), the win over Central Florida’s Knights (4-9, 2-8 American) was the second of the week. The Tigers dominated the Knights (96-69) from beginning to end on Monday, with Nolley scoring 20 points in 23 minutes.
“I knew this game was going to be tough the second time around,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said. “They made the adjustments that we knew they would make. We weren’t ready for it when the game started, which is a little disheartening. … When it looks like we are not prepared for it, which is not good on my part.”
A couple of weeks ago, Hardaway expressed concern that the Tigers were not winning the right way. He amplified on that thought pattern on Wednesday.
“We get bored with success. We will stop playing. We will give effort for a while and then we will pick it back up,” Hardaway observed.
“To win the AAC regular season and championship, you can’t have those huge lulls. You can’t spot them those points. Winning the right way is understanding the personnel, sticking to our principles and everything else comes from that.”
In their Wednesday night win, the Tigers made it a point of emphasis to attack the basket to get more free throw attempts. The Tigers made 14 of 18 attempts in the second half.
“We wanted to get downhill,” Hardaway said about getting to the free throw line. “We were a little stagnant. We had to get our rhythm again. In the second half, we started by changing up how we were pressing and we got better with it.”
- D.J. Jeffries’ 11 points made him the only other Memphis player in double digits.
- Alex Lomax had six assists to lead the way for the Tigers.
- Memphis’ defense is still the signature of the team. The Tigers held the Knights to only 35 percent shooting in the first half, forcing 1 of 13 shooting from three-point range and 10 turnovers.
- Next up for the Tigers is a Saturday afternoon (February 6) game with the East Carolina Pirates. The Tigers trounced the Pirates 80-53 in their first meeting. East Carolina only had eight scholarship players and were missing their head coach because of COVID-19 protocols.
- The Pirates take on the Tigers after having defeated the No. 5-ranked Houston Cougars 82-73 at home on Wednesday night.