Boogie Ellis applies defensive pressure in response to Emmanuel Akot's offensive intensions. (Photo: Terry Davis)
Terry Davis

In a game their coach yelled, “It’s do or die time,” the University of Memphis Tigers eked out a win over Boise State on Thursday night and landed in the final four of the National Invitation Tournament

The Tigers (18-8) now are set to play Colorado State in Frisco, Texas on Saturday. Both teams are No. 1 seeds. Colorado State survived North Carolina State (65-61) on Thursday to earn its way into the semifinal game. Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech are matched in the other semi-final.

“I am really excited about making it to the final four,” said Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, “It wasn’t one of our best games. We only had seven assists and 14 turnovers.”

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway confers with the Tigers’ coaching braintrust in the NIT win over Boise State. (Photo: Terry Davis)

The Broncos came out on fire. They made three shots from beyond the three-point arc and took an early 15-5 lead. Memphis spurted back with defensive pressure that keyed a a 9-0 run in two minutes and 38 seconds.  In the middle of the 9-0 run, Hardaway yelled, “It’s do or die time.”

It was a foul-trouble half for the Tigers. Lester Quinones and DeAndre Williams each received two personal fouls and had to sit for more than six minutes. Moussa Cissé also picked up a second foul before the end of the half.

Up by five (31-26) at the break, Memphis had committed 10 turnovers. Boise State turned the ball over 13 times in the first half but were only able to score seven points off of those turnovers.

The second half was a roller coaster. Memphis was up 54-47 with 4:07 left to play before allowing a 7-0 run that tied the game at 54.

After the Tigers’ Boogie Ellis missed shot, Quinones got the rebound and managed to score on a layup that gave Memphis the lead with 32.5 seconds left (56-55). Williams sank two free throws and Nolley connected on another for the final margin.

Hardaway had Ellis foul with 3.6 second remaining to prevent the Broncos from tying the game with a Three-pointer. Derrick Alston made the first free throw before missing the second on purpose.  Nolley was fouled on the rebound, making one of two free throws.

After the Broncos missed the final shot of the game, Nolley went to Hardaway and hugged him in relief.

Hardaway took note of Damion Baugh, saying he had “a great leadership game. Not only did he have six rebounds and six points, he had some key blocks.  He has been one of the most positive guys on the team to help keeping morale up.”


  • The Tigers’ offensive woes were not due to poor shot selection. They got good looks but could not get the basketball to go down on a consistent basis.
  • Tony Madlock, a former Tiger’ player and now former Tigers assistant coach, has accepted the position as head coach of the South Carolina State Bulldogs. It is Madlock’s first job as a head coach.
  • Hardaway on Madlock’s new position: “I am very proud of him. This something that he has definitely wanted. This is something we first talked about when he became my assistant. I am so happy for him.”
  • Memphis will play two more NIT games this week. They take on Colorado State at 11 a.m. on Saturday (March 27) in Frisco, Texas. If they win they will play at 11 a.m. on Sunday or at 2 p.m. if they lose.
  • Because of COVID-19 safety concerns, the tournament is being played with fewer teams, with all of the games in Dallas suburbs. The semifinals and finals traditionally are played in Madison Square Garden in New York.