If you want to say the University of Memphis Tigers are on a roll, you’d be speaking the truth. Or if you want to say they are showing swagger, keep on talking.
This often-maligned version of the Tigers basketball team now has won four games in row, including a 73-49 walk over Connecticut at FedExForum on Tuesday night. And during that stretch, they won their first road game – an overtime thriller over Temple that was secured with Kareem Brewton Jr.’s buzzer-beating shot that made the ESPN Top 10 highlights loop over the weekend,
The roll and the swag are linked to Jeremiah Martin, who was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week after scoring 31 points against Tulane and 26 points in the Temple victory.
“We played a solid game all the way around. Our guys were focused to the end. “Jeremiah has been playing great,” said head coach Tubby Smith after the win over the Huskies. “He has had four spectacular games. He has done everything that we have asked him to do.”
Mike Parks Jr. mirrored Martin on Tuesday night. Each had 21 points and 11 rebounds, racking up their first career double-double performances in those categories. Martin’s previous double-double involved assists.
“We are locked in as a group,” Martin said. “We are going about things seriously and we are executing the game plan. We are trusting what we are going over in practice and carrying it over to the game.”
Parks reflected on his improved play.
“I just had to stay focused to the game plan. I was going through a lot, but I had to overcome that. I prayed to God and kept working hard, now it is here.”
Within earshot, Martin interjected and said, “He cut his hair.”
Rebounding, Parks said, “I did that to. My mom said I needed to cut my hair and my beard; that might be the factor.”
Martin later amplified on why he thinks the Tigers are executing better.
“We had a lot of plans at the beginning of the season. What made our offense better was to only run the plays that were best for us. We are just sticking to what we do best. We are going out there playing hard and trying to get some stops.”
The Tigers came out and played loose in the first half against UConn. They controlled the glass, out-rebounded the Huskies 18-7 and dominated inside, where they outscored the Huskies 22-6. It was a performance that lived up to the way Smith wants the team to play – physical and in control.
The strong start came despite the Tigers only making one of seven shots from three-point range and having six turnovers. Parks led the way with 13 points and seven rebounds. Martin added nine points and 5 rebounds.
This year’s Tigers have a history of slow, second-half starts. Jamal Johnson sent a message to Huskies that there would be no letup in the second half. He sank a three-pointer to push the Tigers’ to the largest lead of the game at 35-18 just seconds into the half.
With 7:14 left in the game and the Tigers up 62-35. the Huskies’ only player in double digits was Jalen Adams with 11 points. In mop-up time, Josh Carlton had 15 points and Christian Vital had 14 points.
Brewton was the only other Tiger to score in double digits with 10 points.
“Our guys have been working hard in practice with a renewed attitude,” Smith said. “It was an impressive win for us. …It is a process, we are getting better, but we still have a long way to go.”
Next: The Tigers (13-6, 4-2) travel to play the second game of the season against the Tulsa Hurricanes on Saturday (January 20) at 7 p.m. They game can be seen on ESPNU.