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Tigers eye regular season after exhibition romp past Lane

“We are ready” were the words of University of Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway after the Tigers’ 88-49 win over the Lane Dragons in front of 10,741 fans at the FedExForum for the exhibition game on Sunday.

Memphis’ last exhibition game before the regular season served as the season’s debut for newcomers Emoni Bates and Johnathan Lawson and returning guard Landers Nolley II. The trio was not part of the Tigers’ romp past Lemoyne-Owen College last week.

Lane is coached by former Memphis star point guard Andre Turner, who is in his first season after leading the Mitchell High School Tigers to several state tournaments, including multiple state championships.

Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and Lane Coach Andre Turner — both former starts at the UofM — greet each other warmly. (Photo: Terry Davis)

Bates, a five-star recruit and big-time NBA prospect, was held out of the LOC game as he was recovering from a thigh injury.  He played and did well, although not starting at point guard, where many expect him to wind up.

With Hardaway deciding to ease Bates into the lineup, he started as shooting guard role, with Alex Lomax at the point.

“With Alex having the lead guard role, it helped him (Bates) to relax,” said Hardaway. When he had the ball he was more comfortable. It is not he can’t play the lead role, but having Alex allows him to be more comfortable.”

Bates finished with 12 points and 3 assists. Nolley, who was held out of the LOC game for disciplinary reasons, came off the bench and was the leading scorer for the Tigers. He scored 18 points to go along with 3 assists, 5 steals and zero turnovers.

“For the first time, I think I had a good overall performance trying to get my teammates involved,” said Bates. “We have a good team. Everybody is buying in. We are looking up to the veterans ….”

Courtside for the game was Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who Bates has called his favorite player. The two are known to communicate with one another often.

Ja Morant (left) has his eye on Emoni Bates and the Tigers. (Photo: Terry Davis)

“It is real good him (Morant) showing me love like that,” said Bates. “He and I talked before I got down here. We kick it off the court. I see him as a big brother. He tells me where to find the right reads. He makes sure I keep my head in the game.”

Josh Minott was the only other Tiger in double digit scoring with 11 points.

Josh Minott on the way down after rising up for a dunk. (Photo: Terry Davis)

The Tigers’ defense, in particular their press, was just too much for the Dragons, forcing 39 turnovers that resulted in 34 points. The Dragons were led in scoring by former Olive Branch High School player Kelvin Allen’s 10 points.

Lane is loaded with Memphis-area players. In addition to Allen, the Dragons’ roster includes Robert Glenn, Kylan Haywood, Tyran Davis, Jamarius Horton, Tomonique Marion, Tariq Mason and Radarious Washington.

“A lot of those (Lane) players played either on my AAU team or for me at East,” said Hardaway. “It was great to see them. It was hard competing against them because they have always competed with us. It was fun today. The city of Memphis won today.”

For Memphis, the games that count start next Tuesday (Nov. 9) when they host Tennessee Tech.


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