The Memphis Tigers were back in action Friday night, taking on the Central Arkansas Bears in the second leg of a three-game home stand leading up to their nonconference finale against Auburn next weekend in Atlanta.
Bogged down by thirteen first half turnovers, Memphis struggled early to a find consistent rhythm. Despite seventeen UCA giveaways in the opening period, the visitors were still able to control the glass and got out to a blistering start from three, connecting on seven of their first eleven triple tries. A back-and-forth twenty minutes that featured nine lead-changes ended with the Bears taking a somewhat jarring two-point lead into the break.
Although the feistiness of UCA was still on display in the second half, the Tigers were able to pull away down the stretch behind a more balanced effort that included four Tigers finishing in double digits in the scoring column. Landers Nolley finished with a team-high 23 points for the second consecutive game, D.J. Jeffries added 16 more and Memphis picked up its third win of the season over Central Arkansas, 85-68.
“The game was a lot tougher than we wanted, but it’s the type of game you can use film footage of to show to the guys, good and bad,” coach Penny Hardaway said. “Every game isn’t going to be perfect or pretty. I’ll take the win for sure. We worked on everything we needed to work on, now we just have to get it right on the court. I’m still proud of the energy that they’re giving, we just have to be smarter and we have to rebound the ball better.”
The same issues that plagued the Tigers in their two losses in South Dakota reared their ugly heads once more Friday night. Far too often in the first half, they looked completely out of sorts on offense. For a team with the type of conference aspirations this one has, they will have to make legitimate strides on that end of the floor to have a shot at getting where they want to go.
Unfortunately for them, in a college basketball season where everything looks and feels different, with American Athletic Conference play also looming right around the corner, the one luxury they do not have is time.
The Tigers will be back in action on Tuesday night at home against Mississippi Valley State. Tip-off against the Delta Devils is set for 7 p.m.