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Tigers pounce on and pound Virginia in a ranked-teams battle

Terry Davis

“They looked battle tested and we did not,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett after the Memphis Tigers saddled the No. 22-ranked Cavaliers with a 77-54 loss and exposed a vulnerability.

With an announced attendance of 13,553 at FedExForum, the Tigers, who cracked the TOP 25 the day before, defeated a ranked team for the third time this season

“Our inexperience showed. That is not an excuse,” said Bennett, referencing the 18 turnovers his Cavaliers committed against Memphis’ pesky defense. “We have to be better than that. It will be valuable to go through this, but their pressure really got to us. … We tried to work hard (in practice) … going against six and seven guys.”

The Tigers, who host Vanderbilt on Saturday (December 23) at 3 p.m., were led – once again – by leading scorer David Jones, who poured in 26 points along with 4 rebounds. He had 16 points in the first half, which ended with the Tigers up by 6 points (38-32).

“He is talented. They space and run good stuff for him,” said Bennett. “The way we got rattled offensively, we were rattled defensively. He is a heck of a player. They have a lot of nice pieces.”

The Tigers’ David Jones against three Virginia defenders proved to be a bad matchup for the Cavaliers. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

It was the first time since 2014 that Memphis had hosted a ranked-vs-ranked game.

“What an unbelievable situation to play a team of Virginia’s magnitude at home” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway. “To have them in our building was a dream come true for me. To score 77 points on a Virginia team just doesn’t happen. This is story book for me, because I have so much respect for him (Bennett) and his program.”

Jones drew cheers from Memphis fans from beginning to end.

“I want to shout out the fans for their support,” said Jones, who heaped praise on his teammates for giving him “the confidence to do it every game.”

The blowout against a ranked and previously unbeaten “felt great,” he said. It was the ball movement in the second half. We saw that they were trying to pack the line. Penny told us to move the ball from side to side. We executed well. That is why we did what we did.”

Memphis’ Jahvon Quinerly maneuvered for 9 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists again Virginia. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

The Tigers got solid contributions from multiple players. Caleb Mills, who finished with 13 points, had 2 steals and turned in defensive effort that didn’t show up in the final box score. Jahvon Quinerly had 9 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Malcolm Dandridge was a force inside with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

Hardaway took note of Mills’ ongoing effectiveness.

“He is very vocal in the huddle and getting on the court and making winning plays. He has sacrificed his scoring for defense and leadership. That is worth more to me,” said Hardaway. “He wants to win. He is showing that every night.”

Caleb Mills shoot and scores over a Virginia defender. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The The Tri-State Defender)

Mills did an assortment of things to keep the Tigers’ lead safe in the first half, including blocking a shot and deflecting passes to cause turnovers. He and Dandridge each had 5 points to start the second half.

“This is the most fun I am having since I have been here,” said Memphis’ senior big man Dandridge. “That is all thanks to my teammates. The energy and environment that I am around.

“I had to make some tough decisions throughout this summer when I was in the portal this summer. I just wanted to be surrounded by a great group of people. God has blessed (me) with that.”


The Tigers’ nationally-televised (CBS) matchup against Vanderbilt on Saturday (December 23)


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