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Memphis gets their first NCAA Tournament win of the Hardaway era, and from the looks of it, they’re just getting started.
PORTLAND – All eyes were on Penny Hardaway. A man who embodies the heart and soul of Memphis culture. More than just a basketball coach, he’s a Memphis legend.
An irreplaceable pillar in the Memphis community. One that has spent the past 8-years starving for an NCAA Tournament win.
Well, appetites were satisfied Thursday afternoon when the Tigers downed the Boise State Broncos, 64-53, at the Moda Center in Portland, OR.
The victory marked Coach Hardaway’s first win in the Big Dance and the first for Memphis since 2014. They’ll advance to the next round but don’t get it twisted; the Tigers are hungry for more.
Memphis applied full-court pressure from the opening tip, and Boise couldn’t keep up in the first half. Hardaway used a twelve-man rotation early in the game and built a 19-point halftime lead.
The Broncos came out surging in the second half and cut the lead to 5 with just over a minute to play. Clutch free-throw shooting and stifling defense down the stretch helped Memphis secure the victory.
Freshman ‘manchild’ Jalen Duren contributed another double-double scoring 10 points and snagging 11 rebounds. He also had a clutch steal in the final 30-seconds to help seal the victory.
Fellow front-court teammate Deandre Williams scored 14 points and added 5 rebounds.
In the first half, senior point guard, Alex Lomax, exited the game late with an ankle injury but returned to action to lead his team to victory.
Lomax contributed 9 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds and made four consecutive free throws in the game’s final minute. His leadership and intangibles are what paved the way for the Tiger victory.
Perhaps the biggest story heading into the game was the presence of Emoni Bates. He traveled and practiced with the team earlier this week, but it was unknown whether or not he would play.
With about six minutes remaining in the first half, Bates checked into the game. He swished a three-pointer on his first in-game shot attempt since January 15th.
Coach Hardaway revealed during his halftime interview that Bates was on a minutes restriction due to his back injury.
Memphis now turns its attention to the Gonzaga/Georgia State game airing on TNT. They will face the winner in the Round-of-32, which will tip-off Saturday.
The Tigers are looking to advance to the Sweet-16 for the first time since 2009.
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