Memphis' 66-59 victory over East Carolina on Feb. 6 was the last time Moussa Cisse and the Tigers' tipped off. (Photo: Terry Davis/TSD Archives)

They’re back, seemingly.

After an 18-day pause for COVID-19 protocols, the University of Memphis men’s basketball team returned to the practice court on Saturday (Feb. 20).

Memphis had won six of seven games and were trending in the right direction to make the NCAA tournament before they had to stop playing.

The Tigers missed five games, but more important, among the canceled games were road meetings at Wichita State and Houston, both considered quality opponents. The Tigers need to get more quality wins to boost their tournament chances.

Jayden Hardaway and Malcolm Dandridge were among the last two players to return to practice.

Head Coach Penny Hardaway said all players and coaches will be available when the team returns to the court on Wednesday (Feb. 24) to face the Tulane Green Wave at 7 p.m. at the FedExForum.

Because of announced postponed games this week, the door may be opened for the Tigers to play a game Friday (Feb. 26) against Wichita State.

If the Tigers were to schedule the game and win, it would be a great win for the program.  First, it would give the team a quality road win.  Second, a win would put the Tigers in a position to capture the American regular-season championship.

This is the second pause the Tigers have had this season. The first break in their schedule was a 17-day hiatus because of issues at other teams’ programs in the conference. The difference there was the Tigers were able to practice and make improvements to their team.

Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway (Photo: Terry Davis)

“We are going to do it by numbers. That is our strength, our numbers.  We don’t have to play a lot of guys, a lot of minutes.  We are going to have to do it by committee,” Hardaway said, regarding his team’s return.

“Before we went out, we were beginning to hit a grove,” Hardaway added. “All the guys were disappointed when COVID issues hit. They stayed close with Zoom, group texts and other things to stay engaged to what was going on.

“When they came back to practice. They were locked in and they are hungry.”

Memphis defeated Tulane (80-74) Dec. 16 in New Orleans. Since then, the Tigers have been playing better and the Green Wave has slipped a notch.

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