Loaded with talent, the University of Memphis Tigers eased into their exhibition basketball schedule, overwhelming the LeMoyne-Owen College Magicians at FedExForum on Sunday night.
Up by double digits most of the game, the Tigers won 105-57 without four key players — five-star recruit Emoni Bates, Chandler Lawson, Johnathan Lawson and Landers Nolley II — who did not dress for the exhibition.
According to head coach Penny Hardaway, Bates had a deep thigh bruise. Chandler Lawson is still awaiting clearance for his transfer from Oregon. There was no word on why Johnathan Lawson and Nolley, the MVP of the Tigers’ NIT championship, were held out.
Asked if Bates had been cleared by the NCAA to play, Hardaway said, “Yes!”
Ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press preseason poll, the Tigers showed a stiff defense, forcing 30 LOC turnovers and executing well a press put in a few days prior.
“I am proud of the team,” said Hardaway. “I was proud of the assists. We had 18 at halftime. Moving the ball like that and the way we play defensively will make it pretty tough to beat us.”
The Magicians are coached by former NBA stalwart Bonzi Wells, who is being assisted by Lionel Hollins, whose extensive basketball resume includes having coached the Memphis Grizzlies.
“We learned a lot about our team in terms of character and grit,” said Wells on social media, (and) that was the goal coming into the game.”
The Tigers’ Jalen Duran, a projected top five NBA draft pick next year, did not disappoint. He had some great dunks and did his job protecting the rim. Lester Quinones connected on five of six three-pointers and finished as the leading scorer with 20 points.
Hardaway has said on multiple occasions that he would play the best nine or ten players, which will take some doing with the talent-ladened roster. That includes Malcolm Dandridge, who finished with 18 points and 6 rebounds and looks to be healthy again.
“I have been coaching him since the ninth grade,” Hardaway said of Dandridge. “I kind of feel for him because of his knee issues. Right now, his legs are feeling the best they have in a long time. What he brings is a good veteran presence. He has been in every big game we have played so far. He can help Jalen tremendously just by talking him through it.”
Dandridge reflected on his Memphis journey.
“It has been a long two years. Coming into college with that surgery … I just wanted to get totally healthy. I definitely feel good.”
Asked about the Tigers’ team chemistry compared to previous teams, Dandridge said, “This is one of the best teams I have been on since I have been here. We are jellying different, and we are just locking in. Some of it is coming from the coaches. Some of it is coming from the players. We know how important it is.”
The coaches, said Dandridge, are making sure the players are on the same page.
“We all do the right thing as a team,” he said.
“From the little things, like when a teammate falls everyone goes to pick them up. It is the small stuff that is going to help us win a championship.”
The Tigers will play their final exhibition game on Sunday (Oct. 31) when they host Lane College, which is coached by former Memphis point guard Andre Turner. This is Turner’s first season as Lane’s coach. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at FedExForum.
Hardaway on the Tigers’ use of the press on defense: “We had one day to do it. I give them an A+. Not really knowing the rotations and the way they did it was great.”
Hardaway on Alex Lomax: “Alex is willing to do anything it takes to win. Initially, he told me he wanted to be the sixth man and let Emoni start at the one position. We know Emoni can play the point, but Alex is our only true point guard.