A couple of hours before the tipoff between, the Memphis Tigers and the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames, the NCAA alerted Memphis that their prized recruit James Wiseman is likely ineligible.
An injunction got Wiseman onto the court just before tip off and the Tigers rolled to an easy win over the Flames, 92-46.
After the game, Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway opened his press conference announcing he wouldn’t comment on the eligibility drama.
“I know as much as you guys want to ask me about James, I have to be silent on that,” Hardaway told reporters. “It is an ongoing process. I wish I could talk about it, but we have to stay silent as we move forward.”
But Hardaway was more than willing to talk about the game itself.
“I am really proud of my guys,” he said. “The only downside was giving up 16 offensive rebounds. When you are blowing teams out, you start to not focus on the small things. You start to do things you want to do.”
Earlier this week Hardaway said that he and his team need to reject the negativity. That was before the news broke on Wiseman. Asked how he and his team will do that inlight of the Wiseman controversy, he shrugged.
“It is what it is. We have to do that. We are in a season,” Hardaway said. “We have some tough games coming up. The next one is the toughest so far. We have to stay locked in and block the outside noise.”
Wiseman was in the starting lineup and received a standing ovation when he was introduced. but when action tipped off, he seemed rattled to start the game.
Tiger PG Boogie Ellis stepped up. The San Diego sharpshooter let it fly from the arc, connecting on 6 of 8 three-pointers in the first half. Ellis led all scorers with 18 points in the first half.
“It felt good. I have been putting a lot of time in the gym. I have been feeling confident,” Ellis said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me tonight and I appreciate that.”
Wiseman had just four points in the first half, along with six rebounds. The Flames made a concerted effort to take away the lobs and easy baskets for Wiseman. With Wiseman off to a slow start, it was up to his teammates to pick up the slack.
“We have so much talent on this team on any given night it can be anybody,” Hardaway said. We knew they were going to play James differently. It happened all through high school. They were trying to take his legs out and push him off the block and not let him rim run.”
The Tigers rolled to a (47-16) lead over the Flames at halftime. The defense of the Tigers held the Flames leading scorer Godwin Boahen to only five points in the first half. The Tigers did not allow the Flames to any type of rhythm going in the first half.
There were many positives to take away from the game offensively for the Tigers. They had five players to score in double digits: Ellis (22 points), Precious Achiuwa (10 points), Tyler Harris (11 points), D J Jeffries (14 points) and Wiseman (17 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks).
“(Wiseman) made a big difference. He blocked a lot of shots in the first half,” Jefferies said, careful not to talk about his teammate’s eligibility. “He helped all our shooters to get hot. He was a big piece of that tonight.”
But the cloud still looms over the locker room. During the game, the NCAA posted a statement on Twitter:
NCAA statement on James Wiseman: pic.twitter.com/B4hClOQxMj
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) November 9, 2019
The Tiger won a temporary injunction for Wiseman to play Nov. 18, when the matter will be taken up in court again. Between now and then, the Tigers are scheduled to play Oregon (Nov. 12) and Little Rock (Nov. 16)
Ellis will return to the west coach to play the Ducks said, “I am excited to be going back to the west coast. I always play with a chip on my shoulder and ready to play against a great Oregon team.”
Jeffries has earned the right to be a starter, but he had Hardaway decided it would be best if he came off the bench. When asked about his mentality on coming off of the bench Jeffries said, “Coming in, coach told me what he wanted me to do. I just went out there and did what he wanted me to do.
“He wanted me to come out and play with energy and score off the bench,” Jeffries added. “I do that every night. We have five good starters. (Starting) doesn’t matter to me. As long as I go out there and do what I have to do.”
NEXT: The Tigers head out west for their toughest match to date: the No. 15 Oregon Ducks on Nov. 12. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.