Memphis looks to extend success against East Carolina

NCAA Men's Basketball

While Memphis is trying to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month, East Carolina is happy to get back on the court.

The Tigers look to continue their recent success over the host Pirates on Sunday in an American Athletic Conference contest in Greenville, N.C. East Carolina has not played since Jan. 9.

Since a three-game winning streak from Dec. 2-8, Memphis (7-5, 3-2 AAC) has alternated losses and wins over its last six games. Coach Penny Hardaway felt his Tigers played one of their best games of the season with Thursday’s 72-52 home win over Wichita State.

Landers Nolley II (13.5 points per game) had 16 points and Moussa Cisse added 12 with 10 rebounds as Memphis canned a season-high 11 3-pointers and yielded its fewest points of 2020-21. It also marked a fourth consecutive contest that the Tigers allowed fewer than 60 points.

“We looked like a basketball team. For 40 minutes,” Hardaway said. “Really proud of everything we did. I know we’ve always had this firepower. And, we still didn’t have everybody show up the way that they are capable of.”

The play of Cisse, specifically, was a positive aspect for the Tigers. One of the prized prospects in the freshman class, the 6-foot-10 Cisse averages 6.8 points and 7.5 boards but recorded his third double-double on Thursday.

He could be in store for another big effort against East Carolina (7-3, 1-3), which has dropped four straight against Memphis and will be playing its first game since a 69-63 home loss to South Florida on Jan. 9. This will be the Pirates’ third game over a 33-day stretch due to issues with COVID-19 inside and outside of the program.

“Our guys are excited to finally try to get to play on Sunday,” said East Carolina coach Joe Dooley, who won’t be on hand as he continues to deal with his own COVID-19 diagnosis.

“We’re at a point where these guys need to play a game. Get some rhythm, get a routine down. Get some game time.”

Dooley’s Pirates have averaged just 59.5 points and shot 38.0 percent in its two games this month — both losses.

Jayden Gardner averages a team-leading 16.3 points, but has totaled 15 points in the two January contests. He has averaged 15.7 points on 19-of-38 shooting in three career meetings with Memphis.

–Field Level Media

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