The Memphis Tigers had a quick turnaround for their Monday night matchup against the Tulane Green Wave, the conference opener for both teams. And the Tigers delivered another complete game, winning 84-73 in front of 15,544 at FedExForum.
Memphis got off to a very poor start offensively. At one point in the first half, Memphis was shooting just 12.5 percent from the floor and Tulane rarely missed, roaring to a 15-4 lead. During that span, the Tigers only had only one turnover.
The Tigers eventually warmed up, thanks to some good shooting and ball sharing. A 17-0 run helped Memphis take control of the game, even with Precious Achiuwa on the bench with two fouls for much of the first half.
Lester Quiñones Jr. and Damion Baugh led the way in the first half for the Tigers, each with 11 points. Alex Lomax did a good job of running the offense. He had 6 assists and no turnovers.
Memphis came into the game averaging 80.3 points per game, ranking the Tigers 35th in the nation in scoring. Tulane entered the game with a 70.3 points per game average.
Memphis got off to a very fast start in the second half. Memphis scored the first two baskets of the second half to have their largest lead of the game 44-30. Achiuwa quickly scored nine points early in the second half.
The Tigers only had five turnovers in the first half and about midway through the second half, they still had just seven turnovers in the game. Hardaway also had to be happy with his squad’s 19 assists at that point. Turnovers and assists are two points of emphasis Hardaway had been stressing the last several weeks.
“It was game planning against that zone,” Hardaway said of his team’s assists and turnovers. “They are one of the best teams in the country in turning you over in that zone. We put the ball in the right players’ hands and they made the plays.”
Tulane did not go down without a fight, however, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 58-51 with a little over 11 minutes left to play in the game. But Memphis kept Tulane at bay with key baskets – a bucket by Jayden Hardaway, a three-pointer by Quiñones and another basket by Baugh help push the Tigers led to 65-55 with 9:42 left in the game.
Lomax’s first turnover of the night came with 4:36 left in the game, and led to a Tulane layup that cut the lead to 71-66. Harris connected on a three-point basket, but Tulane’s Jordan Walker answered to keep the Tigers within reach.
Tulane managed to cut the Tiger lead down to 3 (74-71) with 3:33 remaining, but Lomax’s floor leadership continued to shine. Tyler Harris made a big three-pointer and the Tigers made their free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
It was another balanced scoring game for the Tigers. Memphis had five players in double digits in scoring. Quinones (16), Baugh, (15), D.J. Jeffries and Achiuwa (14 each) and Harris with (12). Jeffries and Lomax each had eight assists. Quinones had 4 turnovers and was playing in this second game after sitting out the past four weeks with a hand injury.
Next up for the Tigers will be a matchup against yet another SEC team – the Georgia Bulldogs. The game is a part of the AAC vs SEC Challenge. Georgia features a future potential top five NBA pick in Anthony Edwards. Edwards has the potential to score in bunches and will give the Tigers guards a handful to handle.
The game is Saturday, Jan. 4. Tipoff is at 12 noon and can be seen on CBS.
K.J. Lawson comes home
It was a homecoming for a former Tiger – KJ Lawson. Lawson is in his first season with Tulane after transferring from Kansas. Of course, Lawson and brother Dedric both left UofM in 2017, then coached by Tubby Smith.
Lawson had 22 points to lead the Green Wave. Lawson enjoyed this return back to Memphis to play in front of some family and friends.
There were some small boos when he was introduced. Tulane coach Ron Hunter was not pleased by the reception that some of the fans gave Lawson. And neither was Hardaway.
“There is nothing you can do to stop the fans from booing,” Hardaway said. “It is unfortunate. KJ and Dedric were put in a situation with their father that they needed to move. You can never blame the kids. KJ did well when he was here. He was freshman of the year. You have got to respect that. The few fans that booed him, shame on you.”