Youth trumped experience in a 60-49 victory for the No. 22 Memphis Tigers (14-3, 3-1 (American Athletic Conference)) over the Cincinnati Bearcats (10-7, 3-2 (AAC)).
Penny Hardaway’s starting lineup change looks more promising after two games as D.J. Jeffries has shined in the starting role. Despite an upscale on his recent performance, the forward looks to improve.
“I need to be more aggressive,” Jeffries said. “It helps when you’re hot. It helps build your confidence up. I’m the type of guy if I miss a couple, I’ll stop shooting but tonight I was hot, so I just kept shooting.”
The Olive Branch, Miss. native led the team with 18 points (4-of-10 from three). Jeffries told media after the game that he felt confident taking a team-high 13 shots.
Memphis’ leading scorer, Precious Achiuwa, came into the contest averaging 15.6 points per game and notched his sixth straight double-double with a 12 and 11 mark. The Queens, N.Y native has now recorded double-digit rebounds in 12 of his last 13 games.
While Achiuwa leads the team of young freshmen, his consistency was key against a veteran Cincinnati team led by 2019 AAC Player of the Year, Jarron Cumberland.
Penny Hardaway praised his team for pulling out a win from a physical Bearcats team.
“A great win for a young team; veteran team like Cincinnati coming in with some really good pieces that could hurt you,” Hardaway said. “We knew (Cumberland) was going to come out with aggression from the beginning. The way the kids responded was phenomenal.”
The Tigers were on fire early, knocking down three straight three pointers but were held to zero field goals for nearly the next eight minutes.
The first half also saw the Tigers limit the Bearcats bench to no points, and Jarron Cumberland, leading scorer off the bench, came into the contest averaging 10.1 points per game. The younger Cumberland cousin ended with just three points after making a three with 10 seconds left in the game.
He composed all of the Bearcats’ points off the bench.
After a strong first half, Memphis saw a 30-21 halftime lead shamble after Cincinnati’s 13-0 run put them up 38-37 with 12:37 left in the second.
Jarron was one of two Bearcat players to end in double-digit scoring (19 points) and junior guard Keith Williams added 12 points a team-high eight rebounds.
This downfall was short-lived for the young Memphis team as they responded with a 10-0 run and never looked back for the remainder of the contest.
Jeffries notched his fourth and last three-pointer in the game at the end of the run to maximize the momentum to the fans.
“I think in the second half we all just kind of turned up the energy a little bit, Achiuwa said. “They had a run. Basketball is a game of runs. We didn’t really panic at all.”
Notable performances include Lester Quinones ending with 12 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting (all three-pointers) and on the charity stripe (4-of-4). Malcolm Dandridge performed well on a career high 27 minutes tallying three points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks.
Hardaway’s squad will look to continue their current form against Tulsa next Wednesday. With almost a week of preparation, he will look to strengthen his side’s defense with full court press, half court press and zone, and will emphasize to not show off on the attack.
“Offensively, we’re going to talk about spacing and execution of the offense and hitting singles instead of trying to hit home runs with passes,” Hardaway said. “We do that way too much.”
The Golden Hurricanes have won two straight, and junior guard Brandon Rachal leads the team in points (14.9) and rebounds (6.6).
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. CT at the Donald W. Reynolds Center with the game available on ESPNU.