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Tigers tap into team’s ‘major growth’ to overcome Clemson

Terry Davis

The Memphis Tigers’ two-point victory over previously undefeated Clemson was a matter of subduing a nationally-ranked opponent by what head coach Penny Hardaway considered “any means necessary.”

With 15,000-plus viewing the struggle over No. 13 Clemson (9-1) at FedExForum, the University of Memphis’ 8-2 Tigers overcame a slow start and a seven-point halftime deficit on what evolved into a joyous afternoon.

“This team is still learning one another,” said Hardaway, sharing his appreciation for the way this season’s team of Tigers has fought “against teams that are nationally ranked, that have been together way longer and pull wins out by any means necessary.”

Everyone that touched the floor, said Hardaway, contributed in their own way to the 79-77 win over a Clemson team that began the day as one of only seven unbeatens in the country. That unblemished mark featured five wins away from Clemson’s home court.

Jayhlon Young dives for a loose ball and manages to secure it. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

Memphis was back on its home floor after six games away from FedExForum.

“Coming home, I felt a little eerie after being gone for a month and a half and them (Clemson) coming in and getting momentum,” said Hardaway.

In the first meeting between the two programs, Memphis fell into an 11-2 hole in the first three minutes. The Tigers bounced back as starting point guard Jahvon Quinerly and leading point-getter David Jones scored the next 11 points. With the game knotted at 13 with 13:54 left in the first half, Memphis pushed on to a three-point lead (16-13) after a basket by Jaykwon Walton.

Clemson’s Tigers retook the lead and extended it to 10-points (35-25) with 3:23 left in the first half. Memphis countered with a 5-0 run aided by Jayhlon Young’s three-pointer. And when the halftime buzzer sounded, Memphis headed to the locker room to deal with a 39-32 deficit.

Jahvon Quinerly gets to the basket and scores despite the defense of Clemson’s star center, PJ Hall. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)
Memphis’ David Jones looks for a passing option as the Tigers dig out of any early hole against No. 13 Clemson at FedExForum on Saturday. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

The halftime adjustments by Memphis brought early dividends in the form of an 8-0 run that yielded a one-point (40-39) advantage. Clemson did not score until a free throw with 16:37 left tiee the game (40-40).

“To get the lead in the second half, we sped the tempo up,” said Hardaway. “They were just jogging down the ball and getting into their sets and throwing the ball to (6’11 center) PJ Hall. We started pressing them to make them go faster.”

Clemson opened a 5-point lead (45-40) with scoring by Hall. Memphis kept clawing and with 7:59 let to play the hometown Tigers pulled ahead 62-61 on a Young layup.

Jones and Quinerly powered the Tigers in the second half. Jones had 17 of his 22 points after halftime and Quinerly had 10 of his 17 points in the second half.

With 39 seconds remaining, Memphis led by 5 points (79-74). Some squandered free-throw opportunities down the stretch kept Clemson in the hunt but Memphis did what was necessary to hang on and claim the win in a game in which they forced 15 turnovers (and scored 17 points off of them) and shot a dismal 15 percent (4 of 36) from three-point range.

Nick Jourdain dunks two of his 11 points. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

Memphis’ six-foot, nine-inch forward Nick Jourdain, who scored 11 points and 4 rebounds, had the challenging task of guarding Clemson’s Hall (21 points).

“JQ (Quinerly) made my life easier, he was warring (Clemson guard Joseph) Girard (III) over from the screens. I did not have to help,” Jourdain said.

“Guarding Hall was a lot of fun. Coach Penny said in the locker, ‘when you are guarding great players, you learn a lot.’ I feel like I learned a lot this game. He had some good moves. He had that dunk, but I got some stops on him.”

Acknowledging Memphis’ woes from three-point range, Quinerly said, “…we did not let that dictate how we guarded. We executed the game plan. We were able to take Joseph Girard out that game. That was my assignment. We didn’t make open shots (but) our defense did not suffer. That is what I am most proud of. It shows some major growth.”

Against Clemson every point was needed, including these two by Jaykwon Walton, who scored three points. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender)

Clemson shot 49 percent from the field. Chauncey Wiggins had 19 points and 7 rebounds. Ian Schieffelin had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Chase Hunter added 13 points.

Clemson head coach Brad Brownell talked about the value of a matchup such as Memphis-Clemson.

“They are good games. That is why we called Memphis to play. We know they are going to be good every year,” he said.

“We are trying to put together a resume with as many good teams as you can play. I give Penny a ton of credit for what he has scheduled. He is pretty secure in his job to schedule six straight road games like that.”

Next

Memphis will have another road test against another tough Atlantic Coast Conference team in Virginia when the teams tip off at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (December 19). The game can be seen on ESPN2.

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