Memphis has easy win against struggling Mustangs

by Dan M | Posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2019

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BY:  Dic Humphrey                                                                                                                                                                MEMBER:  United States Basketball Writers Association

The Memphis Tigers easily stormed by the SMU Mustangs Saturday at the Fed-Ex Forum in Memphis.  Wearing throw-back uniforms from the days when the school’s name was Memphis State, they played like the Memphis State Tigers when Penny Hardaway was their star player.  Hardaway is now their head coach, and his team opened the game with a 13-0 run, finished the first half with a 9-0 run to lead by 17, and polished off the Mustangs in the second half to earn an 83-61 win that wasn’t as close as that score indicates.  Memphis improves to 12-6 on the season and 4-1 in American Athletic Conference play, while SMU falls to 11-7 and 3-3.

The Mustangs played without one of their top players – Jarrey Foster.  Foster played just four minutes last Wednesday before re-injuring the left knee that has undergone two ACL operations.  No definitive assessment of the injury has been made as the medical staff is waiting for the swelling to subside to be able to analyze the extent of the injury.  It’s unlikely though that he’ll return to the court soon.

SMU didn’t score for almost the first eight minutes of the game.  Feron Hunt and C. J. White came off the SMU bench to score the Mustangs’ first two baskets, after trailing 13-0.  Five turnovers and six missed shots accounted for the 13 point deficit.

“I don’t think you could possibly dream up a worse start.” SMU Head Coach Tim Jankovich said in his post-game interview on radio station KAAM 770 AM.  

The Mustangs actually turned the game around with a 20-8 run.  A little more than six minutes remained in the first half, when they cut the Memphis lead to four points at 25-21.  That was the high point of the game for SMU.  Memphis finished off the half with a 15-2 run to lead 40-23 at halftime.

It only got worse after intermission.  Memphis more than doubled the lead to 35 points with 6:37 left in the game.  At that point, Hardaway emptied his bench, and SMU closed the final deficit to 22 points.  

Jankovich complimented Memphis after the game.  “I thought they played great.  Tremendous energy.  I thought they were prepared.  It wasn’t all our poor play, but there was plenty of that.”   

There’s no question that Memphis is a team on the way up with Hardaway taking over as head coach.  The Tigers are much improved from the season’s start, and Hardaway has signed two five star players and one four star recruit for next year.  Included is James Wiseman, a 7’-0” center considered to be either the number one or number two recruit this year.  The glory days for Memphis when John Calipari coached the team may be coming back.

 Just two Mustangs scored in double digits – Jimmy Whitt, Jr. with 12 points and Isiaha Mike with 10.  Mike was in early foul trouble that limited his playing time.  He fouled out of the game in the second half having played just 21 minutes.  

Five Tigers tallied double digit point totals.  Guard Kareem Bruton led the way with 20 points.  He hit a career high six three point shots.  He was followed by 14 from Tyler Harris off the bench, 12 from Kyvon Davenport, and 11 each from Raynere Thornton and Mike Parks.  Thornton led all rebounders in the game with 14, a career high.

At this point, the American Athletic Conference race is spreading into two tiers.  The top five teams have one loss.  Cincinnati, Houston, Temple and Central Florida are the other four in addition to Memphis.  SMU heads up the second tier at 3-3.  They are the only .500 team and the rest are under .500.  

The Mustangs have a one game week next week, as they don’t play again until next Saturday.  “I think it’s a perfect time,” Jankovich said about having a week between games.    He said that in addition to not having Foster that Jahmal McMurray had double vision prior to Saturday’s game and was questionable to play.  McMurray scored just six points on 2-12 shooting.  It’s a team that needs a break.

SMU faces Tulane, a team they beat 74-65 in New Orleans earlier this month, next Saturday evening in Moody Coliseum.  The Green Wave is 4-13 for the season and 0-5 in conference play.  The tip-off time is 5:00 PM (Central), and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

NOTABLE:

  • The official paid attendance at the Fed-Ex Forum totaled 16,673, the largest crowd for any SMU game this season.
  • Saturday’s game was the second in a row for SMU in which they never held a lead at any point in the game.
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