“Everything is fixable,” said Memphis head basketball coach Penny Hardaway, essentially acknowledging with that statement that something was broken after the Tigers’ 56-49 loss to Tulsa at FedExForum on Monday night.
After getting a much-needed win over the Tulane Green Wave in New Orleans, Memphis took the court in a mostly empty home arena, led at halftime and then faltered down the stretch against the Golden Hurricane.
“My frustration is everything they (Tulsa) did tonight we were prepared for,” Hardaway said. “It is baffling to go into the game understanding what is there and not being able to close the deal at home.”
Defensive pressure in the first half by the Tigers forced Tulsa into 28 percent shooting and propelled the Tigers to a 27-19 lead at the break. Lester Quinones and DeAndre Williams led the way on offense, each scoring seven points.
With Quinones setting the pace with six rebounds, the Tigers controlled the boards with a 26-15 first-half advantage. And in the paint, Memphis (5-4, 1-1) outscored Tulsa 14 to 8.
The second half was a totally different game.
Tulsa (3-3, 1-1) outplayed the Tigers over the last 10 minutes of the game, making 14 of 22 free throws in the second half. Memphis managed only 22 points in the second half, getting outscored 25-14 in the last 10 minutes.
Memphis only made 10-21 free throws. On the missed free throws Hardaway said,
“It is a lack of focus,” Hardaway said about the Tigers’ problems shooting free throws. “We work on free throws every day but not in the arena. There is no crowd so it should be easier to knock down the free throws.”
What turned into a seriously disappointing second half came after freshman Moussa Cisse hurt his ankle one minute after play resumed. He returned to the game but logged the last of his time at the 8:36 mark after picking up his fourth foul.
Tulsa seized on Cisse’s absence and began to attack the rim. With 9:10 left to play, the Golden Hurricane already was in the double bonus.
Williams, who got his first start of the season after being ruled eligible last week by the NCAA, led the Tigers with 13 points and 9 rebounds. He was the only Tiger in double digits.
Alex Lomax missed the game due to an injury to his thumb. Malcolm Dandridge sat out again and should be back in another week.
Hardaway’s disappointment and frustration were readily apparent during and after the game.
“We got another technical up six points. Those guys are too emotional,” he said. “They cry too much when they don’t get the calls.”
Memphis’ success so far this season clearly has gone down when the team has switched to a smaller lineup.
“I am going to make the adjustment on the rotation,” Hardaway said. “I am going to keep a big man in at all times. When we go small it is really not working for us. We are going to play the smalls that really want to be out there. We are not taking enough charges. Everything is fixable.”
- Third-year Memphis basketball head coach Penny Hardaway and the University of Memphis have agreed to a five-year extension, totaling $12.25 million over the entire term. The new agreement runs through April 15, 2026.
- Lester Quinones made the American Athletic Conference honor roll with his performance last week against the Tulane Green Wave. The sophomore guard poured in 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the Tigers’ conference-opening win. He connected on 4-of-7 attempts from 3-point range, grabbed six rebounds and had three steals.
NEXT: The Tigers are scheduled to host the University of South Florida on at the FedExForum on December 29. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.