The Memphis Tigers (19-9, 8-7) continue their road trip Saturday night when they take on the Tulane Green Wave (12-16, 4-12). While the tolls of a college basketball regular season can have an immense effect on the psyche of young teams, the key is to never be too high or too low. For the Memphis Tigers to move forward, they must find a way to strike that balance. Tuesday night is simply another what-if in a season that has been stocked full of them.
Say Precious Achiuwa’s block isn’t ruled a goaltend and Memphis scores on the ensuing fast break to cut the margin to four with a little under two minutes to go. That scenario sounds more promising than the reality they were dealt, falling behind by eight after the ball was awarded to the Ponies by possession arrow after the initial goaltend call had been reversed. I’m not saying Memphis comes back to win the game without that call. What I am saying, however, is that the call had a drastic effect on the outcome. Nevertheless, a loss is a loss.
Do not let the Green Wave’s record fool you. Former Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter has dramatically changed the culture of a program that badly needed a shot in the arm after finishing 0-18 in league play a season ago.
While Memphis should still win this game, it would not be the first time this year that Tulane has upended expectations at home. Both Cincinnati and SMU took losses this year at Devlin Fieldhouse.
Tulane’s revamped roster is a testament to Hunter. Their top-four scorers are all transfer players. Guard Teshaun Hightower averaged a little over 14 minutes a game over his two seasons at Georgia. This year, he plays almost 34 minutes a contest and leads the team with 15.8 points per game. Forward K.J. Lawson only got around 9 minutes a night last year at Kansas. A year later, he plays almost 36 a game for the Green Wave.
In the first meeting, a 76-71 Memphis win, the former Hamilton High School standout was greeted with boos in his first appearance back in his hometown after leaving the program back in 2017. While Lawson would go on to lead the Wave that night with 22 points, it was clear afterwards that the negative reception got under his skin. With the Tigers at-large hopes seemingly reliant on an AAC title, Lawson surely feels a little extra motivation to be the final tack to burst the Tigers’ bubble.
After the loss to SMU, Hardaway said that his team had to win out to finish the regular season. While optimistic, wins over both Wichita State and Houston would practically be meaningless if they fall to the Green Wave Saturday night. Ron Hunter’s team is certainly more than capable of pulling off the upset, but these Tigers will be hungry to get a win after the way their last game ended.
Tip-off at Devlin Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m. Saturday night.
It's time to recalibrate for Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers after Tuesday's loss to SMU likely ended their at-large hopes. Their first chance to bounce back will be at Tulane Saturday night.