For the University of Memphis Tigers, Thursday night’s exhibition against the crosstown Magicians of The LeMoyne-Owen College was a game-time setting to get to know one another, to develop some chemistry and give fans a glimpse of possibilities.
For the Magicians, it was an opportunity to showcase their brand of basketball at the FedExForum, take measure of their ability to compete with a Division 1 team and reward fans who were in full-support mode from beginning to end.
The Tigers won a spirited contest 101-78 in front of 5,808.
LOC fans attached little value to the score, cheering every made shot, even when the Magicians were down by double-digit points. With less than three minutes to go, the LOC chant was rolled out in full effect.
Former Oakhaven High School and Southwest Tennessee Community College player Reshun Ellis gave the Magicians plenty to cheer about. Ellis put on a dazzling performance, scoring 26 points in 22 minutes. He sank three triples, making 9 of his 19 shot attempts and 5 of 6 free throws.
Ellis and his fellow Magicians made runs to keep the game entertaining. A poised Brandon Bush, a true freshman from W.E. B. Dubois, finished with 10 points and 3 assists. LOC had 15 assists on 25 made baskets.
Four of the Tigers’ starters were former junior college players: Kareem Brewton Jr., Kyvon Davenport, Mike Parks Jr. and Jimario Rivers. Jeremiah Martin was the other starter for Memphis.
The difference in the game was the inside dominance of the Tigers. Memphis outscored LOC 48-28 inside of the paint.
Davenport led all UofM scorers with 19 points, making 6 of 9 shots. The Tigers were aggressive all night, attacking the front of the rim and making 30 of 39 free throw attempts. Freshman Jamal Johnson continued to show his pure shooting stroke, making 4 of 7 three-point attempts. He finished with 14 points in 19 minutes.
“It is a big step from JUCO,” said Davenport, “but I feel like the more I am playing, the more I am getting used to it and the more team chemistry we are building.”
Martin did a great job of being a floor general. The Tigers had 23 assists on 32 made baskets and the offense appeared to flow very smoothly.
“I feel it is a good first experience playing with the new guys,” Martin said. “It is fun to get a chance to test what we practice every day. It was fun out there today to play with these guys, to play fast and to play unselfish.”
William Anderson, the Magicians head coach said, “We still have some things we need to work on, but for us to score 76 points on Memphis was a great effort on our part.
“We play an up tempo style. If we can score 76 points on a D-1 team, I feel like this team can bust the clock every night,” Anderson said. “Our guys made some real exciting plays. I was trying to get our guys to take the ball to the hole.”
On the play of Ellis, Anderson said, “We had to play him all over the floor tonight. I thought he did a good job. He got bumped up a little bit in the second half and he was not able to go as hard as we would have liked him to go, but overall I think he shot the ball very well.”
Head coach Tubby Smith said was glad for the UofM to get the exhibition game under its belt.
“Coach Anderson does a great job over there. His teams play hard and they play with a lot of pride. I was happy to see (legendary LOC former) coach Jerry Johnson here.”
The Magicians give the Tigers “a good look,” Smith said.
“They gave us what we needed. They really got after us. We had some good individual performances tonight. I was impressed with our bench play. Malik Rose played well. I think David Nickleberry passed the ball very well.”
Asked about Johnson, Smith said, “He can really shoot the basketball. He is our best outside shooter. Our guys did a good job of finding him. He was under control and poised.”
LOC will be back in action on Saturday (November 4) when the Magicians host Xavier University at Bruce Hall at 4 pm. Although an exhibition game, it will also serve as a homecoming game for the Magicians.
The Tigers will not be back in action until November 10 when they travel to Annapolis, MD to play the University of Alabama in the first game of the Veteran’s Classic at 5:30 pm.