Ouch! Loss to VCU makes Tigers’ need for improvement painfully obvious

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Memphis traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota optimistic about bringing home a championship trophy and returns in search of a way to grow from a performance that was not nearly good enough to earn a victory in the third-place consolation game of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) beat back the Tigers 70-59 Friday Night, setting the post-game stage for head coach Penny Hardaway to take responsibility for his team’s play and noting his disappointment.

With one victory and two losses in the young season, Memphis has the first losing record under Hardaway.

“We are not there yet, but we’re going to get there,” said Hardaway.

“We have been working so hard. Everyone is buying in. We have no selfish players on the offensive end, and we should be one of the better defensive teams in the country. We get in this tournament and things go south, but now you have to learn from it.”

Three games into a season weighted by COVID-19 and pandemic restrictions, the Tigers (1-2) are in big-time need of finding a consistent offensive flow that they can count on. No such consistency was to be found against VCU (2-1), which led by as many as 16 points and never trailed in the second half.

Memphis took 57 shots, connecting on only 20, finishing 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range .

VCU shot 44 percent from the field and went 21 of 27 on free-throw attempts. The Rams converted on more free throws than Memphis attempted (18) and that was the second straight game for such an imbalance for the Tigers.

Often unable to finish at the rim and get easy baskets, Memphis’ offensive efforts seemed forced, with a lack of passing contributing to an anemic performance. The leading scorers in the first two games – Landers Nolley II and Boogie Ellis – had five points and 10 points respectively.

After scoring just 29 points in the first half, the Tigers did only one point better after halftime. D.J. Jeffries, who had not done much on offense in the first two game, turned in a team-high 17 points, taking 15 shots and hitting on six of them.

Memphis trailed the entire second half and could not get stops when they were needed most. The Tigers forced 18 turnovers but committed 18 of their own. And for the second consecutive game, Memphis got rebounded (27-23). Jeffries, Damion Baugh and Moussa Cisse each had five rebounds.

“Let’s go back home, learn from what we faced and get better,” Hardaway said. “We’re only going to get better as the season goes on.”

NOTES:

  • Hardaway said after the game that Lester Quinones is not completely healthy and praised his efforts in playing through pain.
  • Memphis is scheduled to play Arkansas State at FedExForum on Tuesday (December 1). Tickets are available but only 3,000 fans are allowed at home games until further notice.