Memphis menâ€™s basketball is currently 11-6 coming out of the winter stretch of home games and into conference play. The Tigers sport a 3-1 conference record, with the loss coming on a road game against the No. 21 Houston Cougars, 90-77. Memphis has shown they are a hard team to beat at home; with a 9-1 home-record, no team wants to walk in the FedEx Forum.
Over the break, the Tigers proved they are an offensive-powerhouse, scoring 90 points or more in five consecutive games. The team as a whole is shooting 47 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep. Freshman Tyler Harris is averaging 13 points per game, while seniors Jeremiah Martin and Kyvon Davenport are averaging more than 15 points per game.Â
Memphis struggled early in the season with grabbing rebounds, but has since improved and now averages 37 rebounds per game, led by Davenport with 7.5 rebounds per game.Â
Davenport has become a staple mark of the Tigersâ€™ offense, as he racked up four more career double-doubles. Especially in the second half, as Hardaway has stated, he brings a much-needed energy off the bench.
Hardaway not afraid to tinker with the lineupÂ
After only a few games of his tenure at Memphis, it was apparent that Hardaway would not shy away from altering his starting lineup, but, for anyone expecting the first-year coach to eventually find a group and stick with it, he has instead chosen to ride the hot-hand from week to week and pull the right strings to keep his players engaged and motivated.
â€œI know a lot about this team now, and I know what buttons to press at the right time,â€ Hardaway said after the teamâ€™s 96-65 home victory over Florida A&M on Dec 29. Â
After falling 90-77 against then No. 19 Houston 90-77 on the road, Hardaway tried to send a clear message to his team before their next contest, a home date against East Carolina. Against the Pirates, the Tigers started the game with all five seniors on the floor for the first time this season. In the next game, a tightly contested 83-79 win on the road against Tulane, Hardaway made changes once more and inserted sophomore forward Victor Enoh into the starting group in place of Mike Parks Jr. Â
As the season reaches its mid-way point, Hardawayâ€™s players are aware that they must earn their time on the court.
â€œBasically, whoever isnâ€™t going hard is going to get pulled, fast,â€ senior guard Jeremiah Martin said after the win against Florida A&M. Â
Tigers fans can expect Hardaway to continue tinkering with his lineups on a game-to-game basis. One thing that is for sure, however, is that one of the key things he will be looking for is effort. Â
Playing a complete 40 minutes continues to be a struggleÂ
Â In a year that has featured several ups and downs, one recurring problem for this team has been an inability to execute and play to their full capabilities for a full 40-minute stretch. Â
In their last two games, both against conference opponents they were favored to beat, the Tigers struggled putting the opposition away. In a home tilt against East Carolina, a slow start from the Memphis offense put them in danger of dropping a pivotal game on their home floor before a second half surge lead by freshman guards Antwann Jones and Tyler Harris saved the win. Â
On the road against Tulane, the Tigers watched an 18-point second half lead wither away until a few big buckets from Martin helped them hang on to a slim 4-point victory. While Tigers fans will certainly be satisfied with the outcomes of these contests, a more complete and thorough effort for the entire duration of a game would be an encouraging sign as the stakes only raise and the pressure intensifies down the stretch.Â