After turning back Central Arkansas, the University of Memphis Tigers will finish a three-game homestand against Mississippi Valley State Tuesday at 7 p.m. inside FedExForum. (Photo: Joe Murphy/gotigersgo.com)

The performance Memphis turned in to beat Central Arkansas 85-68 ultimately got the job done, leaving Penny Hardaway to craft a head coach’s spin about the value of game that Tigers trailed in by six points with 17 minutes remaining.

Memphis (3-2) overcame a two-point halftime deficit to eventually run away with the victory Friday night at FedExForum. A 15-0 run over a four-minute span in the second half pushed the Tigers to a nine-point lead they would not relinquish to UCA (0-1)

“This game was a lot tougher than we wanted, but it’s the type of game you can use film from to show the good and the bad to the guys and grow from it,” said Hardaway said. “Every game isn’t going to be perfect or pretty. I’ll take the win for sure.”


Memphis-UCA Box Score


Jeffries does it all 

Sophomore forward D.J. Jeffries filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in 23 minutes. He had his most efficient shooting game of the season, going 6-of-12 from the field and connecting on both his free-throw attempts.

“I’m just out there having fun and playing hard,” Jeffries said. “I’m letting the game come to me. Coach has been on me about getting to the basket and the free-throw line to get me in a rhythm and get me going instead of settling for tough jump shots.”

The Olive Branch, Miss., native entered the season as a second-team all-conference selection and is one of 20 players on the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award watch list.

“D.J. is our most talented player for sure with his athleticism, speed and playmaking ability,” Hardaway said. “Sometimes he puts a lot of pressure on himself, so we had a long talk yesterday and kind of calmed him down. We believe so much in D.J. and we’re rooting for him because he works his tail off.”

Nolley II leads in scoring again 

Landers Nolley II led all scorers with 23 points in 28 minutes. The sophomore guard has now led the Tigers in scoring three times this season, all games he scored at least 23 points. He also had 23 against Arkansas State on Wednesday and scored 25 against Western Kentucky in the second game of the season last week.

Nolley II was one of four Tigers to finish in double figures scoring along with Jeffries, Lester Quinones (14 points) and Boogie Ellis (10 points).

Hardaway provides spark 

Sophomore guard Jayden Hardaway had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench. He finished one point shy of his career high, set in the 2019-20 season opener against South Carolina State.

“My mindset going into every game is just to do whatever helps the team win,” Jayden Hardaway said. “Tonight, my outside shots weren’t falling so I just got to the basket and tried to be efficient in finishing at the rim.”

Free-throw, 3-point lines hurt Tigers early 

UCA shot 63.6 percent (7-11) from 3-point range and 78.6 percent (11-14) from the free-throw line in the first half as the Bears took a 42-40 lead into the break.

The Tigers committed their sixth foul of the half just over nine minutes into the game, putting the Bears in the bonus for nearly 11 minutes.

After making its first trip to the line with 5:44 to play in the first half, Memphis was able to finish the opening 20 minutes by shooting 81.8 percent (9-11) from the free-throw line to help make up for a 38.2 percent (13-34) effort from the field.

The Tigers were able to hold UCA to just 2-of-8 from 3-point range and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line in the second half.

The teams combined for 23 personal fouls in the opening half.

Up next 

The Tigers will finish a three-game homestand against Mississippi Valley State Tuesday at 7 p.m. inside FedExForum. A limited number of single-game tickets are available at www.GoTigersGoTix.com. They will conclude non-conference play next Saturday, Dec. 12, against Auburn at 8 p.m. (CT) in a Holiday Hoopsgiving neutral-site game from State Farm Arena in Atlanta.