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Rice Owls defeat Memphis Tigers, 74-71 — and ‘upset’ is the exact right word

The Memphis Tigers basketball team, amidst a three-game losing streak, welcomed the Rice Owls to the FedExForum. The Owls, just 1-6 in AAC play entering the game, were looking for an upset over the wobbly Tigers — and thanks to a disjointed effort from Memphis, they succeeded, winning 74-71.

Was it an upset? Oh, yes. Coaches, players and fans are all upset.

“All the film and meetings meant nothing,” said Hardaway, “if we’re not going to put it to work. We deserve everything happening to us. You have to want it more than the other team.” Hardaway’s disappointment was evident both during the game and in his postgame press conference.

Coach Penny Hardaway, dissatisfied with recent performances, dropped Nichols Jourdain and Jahvon Quinerly from the starting lineup.

“Four losses in a row for this team is glaring,” Hardaway continued. “You need to be unselfish on offense and cohesive on defense. It’s all on me. I’m not blaming the kids. It’s a reflection on me.”

The Tigers trailed for most of the first half, only leading in the initial 46 seconds. Lacking energy and offensive momentum, they ended the half down 33-22, matching the Owls in turnovers with 10 each.

In the second half, the Tigers (15-6, 4-4 American) showed more energy, scoring 11 points in the first four minutes. Consecutive steals brought them within four points (42-38) after a layup by David Jones with 13:07 remaining. This was their closest approach since the first half’s five-minute mark.

Jaykwon Walton and Nae’Qwan Tomlin’s back-to-back three-pointers with 6:59 left narrowed the gap to 55-52, prompting a timeout by Owl’s coach Scott Pera.

David Jones led the Tigers with 18 points, but Rice got the win, 74-71. (Photo: William Weeks/Tri-State Defender)

Jones hit a crucial three-pointer with 4:14 left, giving the Tigers a 59-58 lead, their first since the game’s opening. He then extended the lead to 61-58 with two free throws at 3:06.

The Owls (8-13, 2-6 American) were led by Mekhi Mason with 17 points and Keanu Dawes with 15. Travis Evee and Anthony Selden each added 14 points. Shooting 48 percent from the field, the Owls connected on 10 three-pointers, exceeding their average of seven per game.

Jones led the Tigers with 18 points and 5 rebounds. Malcolm Dandridge contributed 14 points and 5 rebounds, with Walton and Tomlin adding 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Tigers struggled with 16 turnovers and only 10 assists, making just 3 of 17 three-point attempts.

Quinerly spoke about team unity: “It’s about getting tired of this feeling. We need to come together. I hope this brings us closer. I share responsibility for this streak.”

On the first-half performance, Quinerly said, “Our offense struggled, but we focused on defense in the second half.”

Nicholas addressed locker room dynamics: “We’re learning to communicate on the court. Emotions are high, and everyone has their way of being addressed.”

Hardaway emphasized the need for improvement: “We have to spend more time in the gym, watch more film, and prepare better for games. It’s embarrassing, and the responsibility falls on me.”

When asked if the team had quit, Hardaway said, “They haven’t quit; they just haven’t figured it out. We need to share the ball more.”

Next, the Tigers face the Wichita State Shockers at home on Saturday, Feb. 3. The game tips off at noon and will be nationally televised on CBS.


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