The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky gave the University of Memphis a Thanksgiving Day lesson on how an experienced team can beat a more talented one with a 75-69 victory over the Tigers in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The teaching points included weathering Memphis’ early 14-0 run, responding with their own 16-0 spurt, controlling the bulk of the second half and snuffing out the Tiger’s push to climb from a deficit to a win.
“That was a very tough one,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said. “Right now, we’re just a new team. We played an older team that knows how to win. In those games, we have to impose our will on them first, which we did, but we have to keep it on them the entire game, and we didn’t do that. I’ll learn from this, and we will get better.”
The chance to show how well they handle the learning curve comes at 8 p.m. (CDT) tonight (Nov. 27) when Memphis (1-1) plays Virginia Commonwealth University for third place in the tournament. The game can be seen on ESPN2.
“We came to this tournament to learn about ourselves, and we are learning on a daily basis what we have,” Hardaway said. “We don’t have our full team back, so we are giving guys opportunities to step into positions…we just didn’t step up enough to get the win.”
Memphis’ offense was static, with too much one-on-one play compounded by consistently missing layups.
For the second straight game, D.J. Jeffries had a bad offensive night, scoring only six points. He did come up with 10 rebounds.
Landers Nolley II was a bright spot for the Tigers, connecting on six of 10 from three-point range and scoring 25 points. Boogie Ellis had 14 points, hitting on two of his six shots from beyond the three-point arc.
Memphis had 10 turnovers and way too many unnecessary shots, a combination that seriously hampered the effort to get into a sustained winning flow.
Memphis’ big men come up short
Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey and Carson Williams dominated the Tigers’ big men. The Hilltoppers (2-0) dominated the boards (44-32), including 11 offensive rebounds. Bassey had 21 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Williams scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Memphis’ Moussa Cisse racked only three rebounds, with Malcomb Dandridge and Lance Thomas each managing only two.
Memphis committed 23 fouls, sending Western Kentucky to the free-throw line, where they converted on 19 of 24 attempts. Memphis only attempted 11 free throws, making six, Hardaway has said that when the Tigers are not getting to the free line they are not being aggressive in a manner that contributes to winner.
Memphis and Hardaway are 0-2 all-time against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers defeated the Tigers the year before Hardaway entered the NBA, where he reached All-Star status.