On Monday in their season opener, Memphis looked past a slow start and secured their first win of the season 94-77 against the JSU Tigers.
In their first game of three without head coach Penny Hardaway, who is currently serving a suspension, the Tigers led by assistant coach Rick Stansbury started slow.
Trading leads in the first half with JSU wasn’t what fans expected to see, as JSU played with a splinter in their foot from the opening tip.
Senior guard Jaykwon Walton got off to a hot start, keeping his team in the game with a 15-point first half. In the first 10 seconds, Walton attempted a contact dunk over a Jackson State defender, which he missed, but let fans know the type of game he wanted to have.
When the rest of the team seemed to be off, he was on. He ended up finishing with 19 points, 5 rebounds and 6 steals.
“It’s the first game, I’m trying to come out with as much intensity as I can,” said Walton. “We want to play fast as a team, it was a lot of hype in the first couple minutes but eventually we slowed down.”
The Tigers looked to desire a fast-paced offense in the first half, but it ended up almost costing them as JSU had control of the game for the majority of the first half.
From turnovers, missed shot opportunities, and looking to make the perfect play, the Tigers played a brand of basketball that fans are not used to seeing under coach Hardaway.
However, around the halfway point of the first half, they brought it together and finished the first up 47-36.
“This team has some spurtability,” said coach Stansbury. “What I mean by that is a team who can score quickly at different times. We spurted right there.”
The second half was all Memphis, as they picked up right where they left off in the 1st half.
The Tigers had 5 different players with double-digit stat lines and eventually felt comfortable enough to rotate their bench.
Senior transfers David Jones and Caleb Mills didn’t disappoint, as Mills finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Jones overcame a sluggish first half scoring most of his 15 points in the second half and shooting 4-7 from the 3pt line. Jackson State couldn’t find the energy they came out with in the 1st half, and Memphis took the win home.
“We didn’t really play well, but that’s what happens early in the season,” said Mills. We have a lot of unselfish guys; Kwon had his game, and it might be Noah in the next game. We just have a lot of guys.”
The Tigers' first real test of the season comes this Friday in Columbia versus Missouri, a team who blew out Arkansas-Pine Bluff 101-79 Monday night. Fans watching will soon know what this team is made of.
The game will air on SEC Network at 8 p.m.