The University of Memphis Tigers came up BIG in a nail-biter at-home win versus Cincinnati winning 76-73.
The victory improved Memphis’ record to 22-7 with only two games left before the AAC Conference Tournament.
“I’m happy. I’m very happy. We won,” is what Penny Hardaway had to say in a quick opening statement after the game.
The team was almost fully healthy heading into the game but had to persevere without their third-leading scorer.
With the crushing news of Keonte Kennedy being out for the remainder of the season with a broken hand, Memphis relied on a complete team effort in Sunday night’s matchup.
The team was led by DeAndre Williams, who finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds, and Kendric Davis added 22 points and 5 rebounds.
The first half was one of the best halves played by a Penny Hardaway coached team, forcing 14 Bearcat turnovers and going into halftime with a 41-30 lead.
The majority of the second half saw Memphis keep Cincinnati’s attempt at mounting a comeback at bay.
Cincinnati outscored the Tigers 43 to 35 in the second half while also controlling the rebounds with a plus-10 advantage.
“We didn’t execute offensively; it was more one on one. On the other end, we weren’t rebounding. We got outrebounded.” Penny said.
What kept the Tigers going was the significant turnover advantage. Memphis kept themselves at 8 turnovers while forcing Cincinnati to commit 20 turnovers.
The return of Alex Lomax brings back a defensive toughness that was sorely missed. He had three steals off the bench, and the team had 15 overall.
Another factor in their win was the new student section. They showed up for the afternoon tipoff at an already loud and full-capacity crowd.
“I’m enjoying every moment of it, having an advantage at home. That’s what it’s about.” Penny said.
The win holds Memphis at the second seed in the conference standings behind only Houston.
Houston still sits at the number one spot in the conference standings, and they will most likely be ranked number one in the AP top 25.
The win also skyrocketed Kendric Davis’ dream of going to the NCAA tournament, the reason he came to Memphis, which is closer to coming true.
“Coach texted me this morning, ‘I promised you an NCAA Tournament, and with a win today, you get real close’…I haven’t texted him back yet.” Davis said.
With only two games left in the season, this win was a necessity for the Tigers. Tournament time is nearly here, so the Tigers continue to battle for position and a chance at winning it all.
The team will now try to win out and keep their tournament dreams alive with a deep conference tournament run.
The run will start Thursday as the Tigers travel to Texas to face SMU on Thursday at 8 p.m. The Tigers defeated SMU earlier this year and look to do the same next week.
Their biggest battle will come next Sunday though as they face the #2 seed Houston Cougars at home.
The game will take place at 11 a.m. CT. Viewing options are to be announced.