The “most complete win of the season” – according to U of M head coach Penny Hardaway – was the Tigers’ 40-point dismantling of Tulane on Saturday.
And, he said, “It is the most impressive considering what was at stake. Tulane’s confidence was really high against us. Everyone contributed.”
The 94-54 drubbing landed Memphis, ranked No. 2 coming into the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament, in Sunday afternoon’s championship game against the top-seeded Houston Cougars. Both teams are assured of making the NCAA tournament, with the winner getting the conference’s automatic bid.
Tulane, which was seeded NO. 3 in the AAC tournament, had beaten Memphis twice in the regular season and one of the Tigers’ losses was prominently etched in Hardaway’s mind.
“I will never forget that day. That was the day my head coach (Larry Finch) was being honored and (former Memphis star) Lorenzen Wright’s jersey was being retired. It stayed on my brain and my heart.”
From Hardaway’s point of view, “We let our city down. We had to come back and fight. We were ready for today. We could not have dreamed of a script like this.”
Against a Tulane team that Hardaway called “really good,” the Tigers got off to a slow start before rallying with an 9-0 run that gave them a 14-10 leading with 12:23 to go in the first half. The rest of the half was a nightmare for the Green Wave and when it ended the Tigers led 42-17.
Memphis did get a scare late in the half when star point guard Kendric Davis was fouled and took a hard fall. After being attended by the Tiger’s medical staff, he stayed in the game and made the free throws.
In the second half, Tulane’s offense improved as Tigers kept on clicking. With 7:31 left in the game, the Tigers led 70-44. Tulane (20-10) was led by Jalen Cook with 15 points and Kevin Cross had 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Memphis got 27 points and 11 rebounds from DeAndre Williams. Davis had 20 points.
Memphis scored 52 points in the second half.
“UCF were talking crazy (before the game),” Davis said. “Coach pulled up the text that they sent. He mentioned what Tulane said. We don’t take that likely. We wanted to show them.”
This is the second straight year that that Tigers have advanced to the AAC Championship game. Last year they were beaten soundly by the Houston Cougars, now the No. 1 ranked team in the country.
Tipoff today (March 12) is set for 2:15 p.m. The game can be seen on CBS.