The mathematics of basketball – at the most basic level – involves “figuring” what to do in response to challenges and opportunities. When things add up the result can be a NIT post-season victory such as Memphis’ 70-61 win over Dayton in the first-round game on Saturday.
“Dayton did a great job of disguising their 1-3-1 zone,” said Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway. “In the second half we did a good job of figuring it out. … I am really proud of our guys.”
Next up for the Tigers will be a quarterfinal matchup against Boise State on Thursday.
Memphis played with effort and energy the entire game and gave no indication of a letdown about not making the NCAA tournament. Landers Nolley II started the game like a man on a mission that he knew how to get done. He scored 10 of the Tigers’ first 12 points.
The Flyers showed first-half resolve, led by a point (28-27) at halftime and began the second half with a 6-0 spurt. That’s when the Tigers took them to school with a 9-0 run on baskets by Moussa Cissé, Nolley, and Williams capped by a Lester Quinones three pointer.
Memphis ended the game with a 15-2 attack. And when Boogie Ellis hit his first points of the game (a three-pointer with 6:31 remaining), the Tigers took a one-point lead (58-57) and never let it go.
“We just figured it out,” Hardaway said of the Tigers’ big runs in the second half. “We did not try to do too much at one time. Everyone started to understand the flow of the game.”
Memphis limited its turnovers to 10 and had 17 offensive rebounds. The Tigers shot 58.6 percent in the second half (17-29) and made seven of 11 shots from 3-point territory after the break. Their 28 field goals in the game came off of 18 assists and they dominated the boards (44-26), limiting the Flyer to two offensive rebounds.
“We can get to the championship and win it, if we continue to play like this,” Hardaway said. “We crashed the glass. It adds points for us. It gives us second opportunities. We saw Houston do it to us. We learned from that. We have a good offensive-rebounding team as well. If we continue to get offensive rebounds, we will be tough to beat.”
Quinones, who had his third double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of the season, talked about the team gelling.
“Everyone realized how talented a team we had. When people around the country talked about Memphis they talked about our talent,” said Quinones, adding that things would “continue to get better” if the Tigers “let everything come to us. …”
NOTES AND NEXT:
- Nolley led the way for the Tigers with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. D.J. Jeffries added 10 points, five rebounds and five assists. Quinones went 5 for 5 from the field in the second half.
- Dayton senior guard Jaylen Crutcher, the former Ridgeway High School player, who played on Hardaway’s AAU team, was keyed on by a Memphis defensed that limited him to six points and three assists.
- Hardaway closed his post-game remarks by sending prayers to longtime local sportscaster Jarvis Greer, a former Memphis Tigers football player. Said Hardaway to Greer: “I know you just got over cancer. I can’t wait to see you again. You are a legend in our town and congratulations. God Bless.
- Memphis will return to the campus of North Texas State for its second round matchup against Boise State, with the game set for approximately 8 p.m. CDT Thursday (March 25) on ESPN.