Memphis has matched its longest losing streak in nearly five years and ending that slide won’t be easy on Tuesday night when No. 6 Alabama visits for a nonconference game.
The Crimson Tide (8-1) are coming off back-to-back wins over top-15 programs Gonzaga and Houston, the first time they have achieved that double-double since wins over then-No. 11 Auburn and then-No. 7 Tennessee in February 2000.
Meanwhile, the Tigers (5-4) have seen a fast start evaporate with setbacks against Iowa State, Georgia, Ole Miss and Murray State.
Friday’s 74-72 loss to Murray State snapped an 11-game home winning streak and left Memphis coach Penny Hardaway scrambling for answers.
“I’ve gone through plenty of adversity in my life,” said Hardaway, a former NBA star. “This is a low point for me besides my knee surgeries.
“Never saw this coming and I feel like it’s happening for a reason. Until we all bond together, this type of stuff can happen. Other teams to me seem closer. They’re having fun. They’re making plays. We’ll get there.”
Alabama coach Nate Oats is definitely concerned with the timing of the matchup as his team plays its first true road game of the season.
“They’re struggling now, but they’ve got as much talent as anyone on our schedule,” Oats said of the Tigers.
The Crimson Tide recorded a 91-82 upset of then-No. 3 Gonzaga on a neutral court in Seattle on Dec. 4 and followed up with an 83-82 home escape against No. 14 Houston on Saturday.
Alabama moved ahead on a putback dunk by JD Davison with 32.5 seconds left and then survived a controversial finish as Davison swatted a follow shot away from the hoop as time expired. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson vehemently argued it was goaltending to no avail.
The result was that the Crimson Tide celebrated a fourth straight victory despite being outrebounded 43-34, including 21-7 on the offensive glass.
“Our players showed a lot of fight in probably the most physical game we’re going to play in all year,” Oats said.
Juwan Gary scored a career-best 19 for Alabama, while Jaden Shackelford had 18 points and eight rebounds and Jahvon Quinerly contributed 17 points and eight assists. Shackelford leads the Crimson Tide with a 19.1 average.
Tyler Harris scored a team-high 15 points in Memphis’ loss to Murray State.
Emoni Bates leads the Tigers with an 11.2 average as the club looks to reboot. Memphis has gone from being ranked as high as No. 9 to out of the rankings and is now desperate for a victory.
“Yeah, we just have to keep working,” Hardaway said. “That’s all I can do as a coach. Four games in a row, you’ve said every speech. You’ve said what needs to be said. As the leader, you have to push us in the right direction.”
–Field Level Media