Memphis knew coming into this game that they would need their senior guard Jeremiah Martin to play at an elite level. All season long, he has led the way and is the team’s leading soccer. With so much at stake, and a chance to play in the American Athletic Conference championship game, the Tigers needed their go to man to come through in the clutch.
When it was all set and done, the team collectively struggled offensively and so did Martin. He finished the game with 23 points in a losing effort against top-ranked Houston. Martin said after the game that they did not compete the way they needed to which cost them an opportunity to potentially go to the NCAA tournament.
“We didn’t play on the same level as we have been playing the past two games of the tournament and that kind of hurt us,” said Martin. “We had opportunities at the rim in that last minute, but we just couldn’t make it.”
Martin struggled on both ends of the floor and could not get his shots to fall. At the end of the first half, he was the lone Tiger in double-figures with 10 points, but he shot 3-for-12 from the field and only knocked down one of this five, three-pointer attempts.
Despite his struggles, Memphis made Houston play hard for this victory. It is worth mentioning that, the Cougars have not been a game decided by less than three points all year. Granted, the Tigers started the first five minutes of the game sloppy and fragile. They did manage to hang around close
enough to stay within striking distance, and they did just that in the second half by cutting into Houston’s double-digits lead to three and having an opportunity to send the game to overtime. Freshmen guard, Alex Lomax, said after the game that he is soaking in everything he has learned from Martin throughout the course of the season and said he is a better player both on and off the court because of him.
“I have learned a lot from Jeremiah during the year to help me and my game,” said Lomax.
The praise for the senior guard did not just stop with his teammates. Head Coach Penny Hardaway also spoke highly of Martin and his legacy he left at Memphis after the loss to Houston.
“It’s been huge to have him because he’s been our savior honestly. He’s put the team on his back and that’s a phenomenal thing,” said Hardaway.
Martin and the Tigers are not going to the NCAA tournament. Through the ups and downs over the years, he said that he has no regrets and is content with the way things are.
“Everything happens for a reason," Martin said. "I don’t question God. He knows my path." Martin, along with the rest of the seniors: Kareem Brewton, Mike Parks, Raynere Thornton, and Kyvon Davenport, will finish their college career on a sour note.
Looking ahead the Tigers may be able to get a NIT bid. They will have to wait for a phone call to see if they will be selected. Hardaway said he wants this opportunity for his team, especially for his older guys whose basketball careers as Memphis Tigers are coming to an end.
“For sure, I definitely want an NIT bid," Hardaway said. "I want these seniors to have an opportunity to still win a championship."