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Tigers get past Austin Peay with lackluster showing

Terry Davis

Seven words – “I am glad we won the game” – spoke volumes about how Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway viewed the Tigers’ 81-70 win over the Governors of Austin Peay at FedExForum on Saturday.

The sentence was all Hardaway – clearly unhappy with the performance of his No. 19-ranked team – said in his opening statement after a game that stayed uncomfortably close for far too long for the liking of Hardaway and Memphis fans.

“The team did not compete and had no energy. You could notice it right away,” said Hardaway. “There was a five-minute stretch where we lost interest. Our flow is dictated on if we score or not. We are trying to shake that. We don’t have defensive minded players on our team. When we are not scoring, it gets boring to them.”

Memphis (11-2) had all it could handle against Austin Peay (7-8) in a first half that ended with the Tigers up by an uneasy-feeling two points (36-34).

The Governors led a couple of times in the half and had the score knotted at 34 with 1:37 before the break. The Tigers have tended to start fast in the second half but that was not the case against Austin Peay. The Governors took their first lead in the second half on a three-pointer by Isaac Haney with 15:18 left (44-43).

An 18-7 run by the Tigers yielded their largest lead of the game (61-51) with 9:59 left as Jayhlon Young connected on a three-pointer. Dezi Jones, who led the Governors with 20 points (and contributed 5 assists), drained a three-pointer with 2:33 left to cut the Tigers’ lead to eight points (74-66). That was as close as Austin Peay got to the Tigers from that point.

Jayden Hardaway guarding Austin Peay’s Dezi Jones. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

Hardaway saw in Jones what he wanted more of from his Tigers.

“He wanted it more,” said Hardaway. “A young man that comes out and put it all on the line. He did not care who he was playing against. He wanted to show he belonged.”

David Jones slams two points for the Tigers. (Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

David Jones, who leads the Tigers in scoring this season, did so against Austin Peay although he did not score for the first 12 minutes in the first half. His first points came from the free-throw line. Jones, who has been battling an illness, showed signs of a sinus issue during his media availability.

“Early on I was just trying to be a playmaker and get my teammates involved,” said Jones of his slow start.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who is finding a way to fit in with the Tigers, had a double-double performance. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

Newcomer and Kansas State in-season transfer Nae’Qwan Tomlin continues to impress as a Tiger. He had 15 points and 15 rebounds.

“There are still some plays I need to learn,” said Tomlin. “The guys were calling a play, and I was like, ‘what? I don’t know that play.’ It is going to take some time to learn all the plays.”

Hardaway acknowledged that Tomlin is “still getting accustomed to getting to know what we are doing. It does hurt a little bit, because he doesn’t know all of the plays. We can’t run stuff we want to run. He makes up for it in hustle.”

Next

The Tigers will take mid-week trip to Tulsa to play the Hurricanes on Thursday (Jan. 4) at 7 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN+.

Memphis returns to the FedExForum next Sunday (Jan. 7) to play the SMU Mustangs at 4 p.m. in a game set for ESPN.

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