An offseason full of excitement and anticipation for the season finally got to be realized as the Memphis Tigers basketball team defeated the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 89-65 in their season opener.
With the FedexForum back at full capacity, many fans wanted to be able to see this rendition of Penny Hardaway’s Tigers on display firsthand. Headlining the season opening performance were superstar freshmen Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates.
Both players reclassified in order to graduate high school early to be a part of the team. They were in the starting lineup along with familiar faces from last years’ NIT Championship Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax and Deandre Williams.
The first half showed flashes of the talent this team has. Quinones, Bates and Landers Nolley all hit threes, highlighted by Quinones beating the buzzer to close the half and Bates breaking the ankles of a Tennessee Tech defender then nailing a step back three. As something that has come to be expected with a Penny Hardaway coached team, the Tigers ran up and down the court showing their athleticism and speed. They also showed off their athleticism as a team on the defensive end, wreaking havoc for the Tennessee Tech offense.
It was almost impossible for the Golden Eagles to get a clean look at the basket when going up for a layup or dunk. Nearly every drive was met with double teams and swatting hands pinning the ball to the backboard. But at halftime, the game was far from over, as the Tigers only led 52-41.
The second half was more of the same. Lots and lots of running up and down the court. Powerful blocks, thundering dunks and a hyped crowd were the key points of the second half. A lot of the game was made up of mixing up lineups and many substitutions as Penny and the coaching staff try and figure out what combination gels the best.
In all, thirteen different players saw minutes for the Tigers as they slowly pulled away to victory as the buzzer sounded.
“[It] felt good to get the first game out of the way, get the jitters out,” said Hardaway after the game.
With a revamped and new lineup, there are going to be kinks to work out and chemistry to work on to begin. It’s also hard for a young, talented team to get up for an inferior opponent like Tennessee Tech.
“No disrespect to Tennessee Tech, but these guys look at a team [like them] and go, well we’re gonna win and then during the game, during spurts they just go through the motions,” Hardaway said. “It was a lot of fun, just getting out there and just playing, first real game."
“We had two exhibition games. I was able to see what the real college game was like playing against a good team. It was a lot of fun,” said star freshman Jalen Duren.
The Tigers have three days to rest and prepare for their next game Saturday against North Carolina Central at the FedexForum at 6 o’clock.