Another road game, another moment of shame. This time the University of Memphis Tigers went to Tampa, Florida, and came back with an embarrassing loss to the USF Bulls.
Granted, Memphis did everything in its power to get back into the game and make it competitive. Nevertheless, it was all in vain, including Jeremiah Martin’s record-breaking performance.
At the end of the day, the Tigers failed, 84-78, dropping to 13-9 on the season and 5-4 in conference. Not to mention they are now 1-5 on the road with a two-game losing streak. Yet, head coach Penny Hardaway admired his team’s will to win and their never giving up.
“I’ll just say that I’m proud of my guys for fighting back in the second half,” Hardaway said to the post game media. “The first half was a nightmare.”
That is one way of putting it. The Tigers gave up 38 points to the Bulls at the half and only managed to put up a dismal 13 points, the fewest points scored in a half in the American Athletic Conference this season. Additionally, this was the largest deficit in Memphis’ program history since 1999.
Memphis could not buy a basket if it was on the shelf for free. They collectively shot four-for-28 from the field in the first half. They attempted 11 shots from behind the arc and could only find the bottom of the basket twice.
While the Tigers suffered, the Bulls prospered. USF scored 38 points in the first half, shooting 52 percent from the field. Additionally, they were able to connect six of their 10 shots from behind the arc. Hardaway said his team’s tempo did not match their opponent.
“They had more energy than we did,” Hardaway said. “They knocked their shots down because they were at home. They were comfortable, and we didn’t make any shots.”
Hardaway said his team struggled mostly because they could not make shots during the first 10 minutes of the game. Nevertheless, the Tigers did resurge during the second half, led by senior guard Martin.
Memphis collectively outscored USF, 65-46, in the second half. Martin knocked down 13 of his 17 shot attempts from the field and went seven-for-eight from the three-point line. Martin scored a total of 41 points in the second half, the most in one half by a Tiger and seven shy of Memphis’ single-game mark set by Larry Finch (48 points) almost 50 years ago, according to the Memphis Athletics department.
“The second half was our type of basketball,” Hardaway said. “Jeremiah getting 41 points was incredible.”
One of the most striking things about the Tigers’ loss was the lack of playing time for incoming freshman Antwann Jones. He played a total of five minutes and did not get on the court at all in the second half. Hardaway said the freshman is not prepared for this level just yet.
“Antwann is not ready to play right now,” Hardaway said. “He’s just not. He’s not ready mentally right now.”
The Tigers will come back to Memphis and regroup to get ready to play host to the No. 25 Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday. Memphis is 11-1 at FedEx Forum and only lost to the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. The Tigers getting a victory over Cincinatti could potentially be what turns this season around.