Penny Hardaway sent a message to his 2020-21 Tigers — do it the right way or you will be delegated to the bench. Arkansas State was the next opponent up and they got trounced (83-54) at the FedExForum Wednesday night.
“This was definitely something that we needed,” said Memphis’ head coach after the game played in front of 2,829 fans. “Overall, I’m proud of how hard the guys played.”
Reminder: It was Arkansas State.
Hardaway changed the starting lineup, sending Alex Lomax and Landers Nolley II to the bench and inserting Boogie Ellis and Damion Baugh.
Arkansas State, still winless (0-3) was led by Markise Davis and Marquis Eaton, with 13 points each.
Losses to Western Kentucky and Virginia Commonwealth in the Crossover Classic in South Dakota drove some of the Tigers’ fans in Memphis Twitter mad.
Hardaway didn’t need the viewpoints shared on social media to reach a conclusion about how his team played; the disappointment was apparent before he reached the media room for post-game comments.
Ahead of the Arkansas State game he expressed his resolve to get the Tigers on track.
“From that tournament we were soft and selfish. There is no way I am going to have that,” he said. “This team is a representative of this city. We have a Grit and Grind City.
“My style since I have been a coach has been hard-nosed and getting in your face and pressing and I am getting back to that team.”
Enter the Red Wolves of Arkansas State.
Memphis dominated in the paint, outscoring the Red Wolves 44-22, beating them 49-32 on the boards and logging and an 8-3 advantage in blocked shots.
Moussa Cisse had 14 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes as he notched the first double-double of his career.
“If he can get those type of numbers in those minutes, that’s major numbers for us,” Hardaway said. “He’s doing a lot of stuff out there and we’re proud of him.
“He’s a very mature kid that’s going to give us his energy and his defense until he catches up offensively. His progression is a beautiful thing to watch going forward.”