Memphis coach Penny Hardaway hopes his criticism will spark a Tigers turnaround when they host Murray State in a nonconference game on Friday night looking to end a three-game losing streak.
“We’ve got so much negativity in our locker room with veterans being jealous,” he told The Athletic. “Everybody’s trying to get to the NBA off the ranking we had, but nobody is willing to sacrifice minutes, touches, anything. It’s been miserable. You can imagine what a 17-year-old is thinking as he’s trying to figure it out.
“There’s a group of people on this team that if I played them, I really feel in my heart we could be undefeated or only have one loss. The main reason we have these losses is the veterans don’t want to take the young guys under their wings. They want it to be about them. So, when adversity hits, they run.”
After opening the season ranked No. 12, the Tigers (5-3) followed a five-game winning streak with losses to unranked opponents Iowa State, Georgia and Ole Miss, which led to Hardaway bashing his team to the media.
The Tigers played well enough defensively in a 67-63 loss to Ole Miss last Saturday, but struggled offensively. Memphis shot 19-for-49 (38.8 percent) from the field, including 2-for-11 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range. Memphis was terrible from the free-throw line, where it went just 23-for-37 (62.2 percent). Its 14 misses cost the Tigers dearly in a four-point loss.
Memphis is led by Emoni Bates’ 11.5 points per game, while DeAndre Williams averages 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Jalen Duren averages 10 points and a team-leading 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, with Alex Lomax pacing the Tigers in assists (2.6) and steals (2.1) to go along with 6.3 points per game.
Memphis follows its game against Murray State (7-1) with a home date against No. 9 Alabama (7-1) on Tuesday and a neutral-site contest against No. 13 Tennessee (6-2) in Nashville on Dec. 18.
Murray State has won four straight games following a 93-87 win over visiting Middle Tennessee last Saturday.
The Racers had five players score at least a dozen points — Trae Hannibal (19), KJ Williams (18 points, 12 rebounds), Justice Hill (18 points, four assists), Tevin Brown (15 points, five rebounds, six assists) and DJ Burns (12 points, 15 rebounds).
“I thought it was better than pretty good — it was a great win. I was thrilled with our players’ effort,” Murray State coach Matt McMahon said. “That balance was great. There were a lot of winning plays out there on the floor.”
Brown leads the Racers in scoring at 18.1 points per game, followed by Williams’ 17.8 and team-high 7.3 rebounds. Hill averages 11.5 points and a team-high 4.8 assists per game.
–Field Level Media