NEW ORLEANS – Back-to-back wins on the road have been a rarity this season for the University of Memphis Tigers, so the victory over Tulane in New Orleans was no small thing, especially for the players who made it happen.
“It makes a big difference,” Mark Parks Jr. said. “When you come off of a three-game losing streak and to bounce back to get these two wins allows to build our confidence.”
Parks’ inside play and the return of the team’s leading scorer, Jeremiah Martin, were keys to the Tigers’ 68-63 victory over the Green Wave in the intimate – and hostile – environment of Avron B. Fogelman Arena.
Bouncing back from a hip injury that kept him out of the win over Southern Methodist University, Martin led all scorers with 22 points. Parks scored 15 points.
“I felt our guys gave a gutsy effort in a very hostile arena,” UofM head coach Tubby Smith said. “I was impressed with our courage down the stretch, making shots and getting rebounds.
“Tulane did the same thing in our place earlier this season making a bunch of threes at the end. We are happy to get the win. I am happy Jeremiah played well. It is good to have him back healthy.”
The Tigers got off to a fast start thanks Parks’ play in the point and the overall game of Martin. The Tigers led by as many as 10 points on multiple occasions, but could not pull away from the Green Wave. Ten turnovers in the first half did not help. Those empty trips allowed Tulane to hang around, with the Tigers leading 28-22 at halftime.
Up 35-22 (their largest lead) with 15:51 left in the game, the Tigers seemed to have total control. The Green Wave responded with a 14-2 run, cutting the margin to a single point (37-36) at the 11:44 mark.
From there the Tigers scored on nine of their next ten possessions en route to a 56-46 lead with 5:06 left to play. Parks scored 8 of the 19 points for the Tigers during the stretch.
Still, the Green Wave would not go away, with the trio of Jordan Cornish, Caleb Daniels and Melvin Frazier causing trouble for the Tigers. Daniels scored 13 points and 11 came from the free throw line. Cornish finished with 16 points, including 4 of 7 from three-point range. Frazier also had 16 points.
With 40 seconds left in the game and the Tigers holding on to a 66-58 lead, the Green Wave would make one final push. The Tigers’ Jimario Rivers fouled Samir Sehic, who made free throws. After a turnover by Martin at center court, Frazier connect on a three-point basket to cut the Tiger lead to 66-63.
Freshman shooting guard Jamal Johnson was fouled on the inbound pass and he sank both free throws, accounting for the five-point margin of victory.
Smith’s us a two-three zone, which he has been doing of late, affected the game positively for the Tigers.
“They were just going by us,” Smith said. “We weren’t rebounding well in the man to man. We have some real mismatch problems. That has been a concern. Teams know how to take advantage of your mismatches. In the zone you don’t really get too many mismatches.”
Martin reflected on what the Tigers did after Tulane cut the lead to 37-36.
“We were more patience. We started to look for options more. We got two or three in a row down to Mike (Parks) and he finished them. That is one thing that gets me going, when I see Mike get going, because I know they are going to have to key in on Mike and that will leave me open. Mike is the key to our offense.”
On coming back from his injury, Martin said, “I feels good to be back. It was good for me to sit out that game and let it heal and seeing what our team is about. The guys played well.”
NEXT: The Tigers face the Houston Cougars at the FedExForum on Thursday (February 22) at 8 p.m. The game can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.