TULSA, Okla. – The Memphis basketball team, playing without Jalen Duren, DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley II and Jayden Hardaway, left the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Tulsa with an 83-81 victory on Sunday, its first in nearly ‘a decade. .
The last time the Tigers defeated the Golden Hurricane on their home turf was in March 2012, when current Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton led the way with 30 points.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak for the Tigers (10-8, 4-4 AAC), who had lost eight of their last 12 games.
It was the Tigers’ first game since coaching Penny Hardaway hit out at the media with a rude rant during the press conference after Thursday’s loss to SMU. More than one Memphis fan showed up in Tulsa with homemade signs expressing their support for Hardaway.
“We needed (the win on Sunday),” Hardaway said. “I got the group together and said, ‘Hey man, I meant what I said when I said we were 901. We’re a team destined for greatness, everything we have to do is believe no matter who walks on the I wanted to win this game for many reasons. But the most important thing is how we lost at home (against SMU) and people probably kicked us out when we lost 13.
“I knew we had the team to win today and they did.”
Led by 13 at halftime, Memphis had nine of their first 11 shots to start the second half, including two 3-pointers from Tyler Harris. The senior guard scored a career-high 24 points (one shy of his career high), marking the sixth time this season the former Cordova star has led the Tigers in points.
Tulsa (6-11, 0-6), in last place in the AAC standings, led by no less than 15.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s victory.
‘Memphis Connection’ is coming in big
Harris and fellow Memphian Alex Lomax — dubbed “The Memphis Connection” by FedExForum PA announcer Geoff Mack — were instrumental in bringing the Tigers back.
Harris, already fifth on the Tigers’ all-time list for 3-pointers scored, made six on Sunday and now has 174 in more than two seasons at Memphis. He scored 10 points in the first 15 minutes of the second half and also had two assists during that streak, including one to Malcolm Dandridge, whose bucket with 7:11 left gave the lead to the Tigers for good.
“I don’t disrespect anyone on our team, but if I need anyone to shoot for me, it’s going to be him,” Hardaway said.
Lomax, who was slotted into the starting lineup and playing his second game since missing five straight with an ankle problem, had eight points, four rebounds, seven assists and one steal. He did not commit a turnover.
Since returning from injury, Lomax has collected 11 assists and one turnover in two games.
Josh Minott to the rescue
Freshman Josh Minott has gone strong since starting AAC play. Going into the game, he was averaging 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds over the last seven games.
On Sunday, Minott scored a career-high 18 points to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.
But it was his 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line that became a major factor in Memphis’ victory. Overall, the Tigers shot 17 for 25 (68%) from the line.
Before Sunday, Memphis had not shot better than 58% from the line in its last three games.
Memphis, already plagued by a series of injuries, received another blow before the whistleblower.
Duren, with bandages on his right index and little fingers, was ruled out. His absence worsened an already thin rotation, which was without top scorer Williams for the fifth straight game and Nolley for the third straight game.
Auxiliary guard Jayden Hardaway also sat out with an injured knee. Junior forward Chandler Lawson, however, returned to the floor for the first time since spraining his ankle Nov. 24.
Hardaway said Duren picked up the injury after Thursday’s loss to SMU, adding it didn’t happen in practice.
“I don’t really know how he hurt him,” he said. “It hurts.”
Hardaway did not have an update on the statuses of Williams and Nolley.
“I left it up to them and the medical staff, because I don’t like getting involved in that,” he said. “I’m not the kind of coach who is going to force anyone back. When they walk onto the pitch and say, ‘Coach, I’m ready’, that’s when I’ll be ready. Obviously they I miss them both because they are so valuable to the team. But I wouldn’t dare, with my six knee surgeries, to rush them. So as soon as they’re ready, I’ll be ready.
Already short assistant coach Rasheed Wallace, was converted to a remote “consultant” role, Memphis was also missing assistant coach Larry Brown.
Brown did not feel well after the team’s practice on Saturday and did not travel with the team.
“He took a COVID test before we left and it was negative,” Hardaway said. “But he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to come on the trip. So we’re supporting that. (But) it was another blow. Not having Coach Brown come and then Jalen was going to play, so it was like, ‘I can’t play. Thank goodness we had Chandler come on the trip. The 15 minutes he played (was) magnificent.’
Contact sportswriter Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.