MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Jeremiah Martin hit two key free throws with 16.9 seconds remaining – two of his game-high 20 points – to help the University of Memphis finish the regular-season Saturday night on a winning note: 66-63 over Tulsa.
Martin, the No. 11 leading scorer in school history, was among five seniors honored before the start of the American Athletic Conference game at FedExForum. Martin, who received the loudest ovation before the game, said he was not going to allow the memorable night to finish on a sour note.
In the game's final five minutes, he scored six points, including the two free throws in the closing seconds, to satisfy a crowd of 17,611.
"It was just winning time," Martin said. "I wanted to go out a winner."
Martin was honored along with Kyvon Davenport, Raynere Thornton, Kareem Brewton Jr. and Mike Parks Jr. But it was a heralded freshman, Tyler Harris, who also came up big to complement Martin.
Harris had a key steal with 2:30 to go and the Tigers clinging to a one-point lead. He converted the steal into a layup for a 60-57 lead. The UofM never trailed the rest of the way. Harris finished with 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
Memphis limited the Golden Hurricane to 34 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers.
"We hung our hat on defense," said Tiger coach Penny Hardaway. "That showed the team's growth."
The UofM built a seven-point lead midway through the second half after going on a 9-2 run. Harris capped the run with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing for a 45-38 advantage with about 12 minutes remaining.
Memphis couldn't pull away, however. After a Tulsa layup with eight minutes to go, Memphis led, 52-46. An 8-2 Golden Hurricane run trimmed the Tigers' lead to two points (54-52) with 5:40 left.
The Golden Hurricane took the lead briefly (55-54) moments later, but the Tigers responded in those closing minutes to improve to 19-12 overall, 11-7 in conference play.
"Coach said we needed this win for momentum going into the tournament," Harris said.
The Tigers will begin play in the American Athletic Conference Championship at 2 p.m. Thursday at FedExForum against Tulane. The UofM will be the No. 5 seed and play the 12th-seeded Green Wave in an opening-round game.
Despite shooting 37 percent in the first half and committing 11 turnovers, the Tigers led, 31-27, at the break. Memphis survived the difficult start, in part, because of Tulsa's struggles. The Golden Hurricane shot 27 percent (8-of-30) and committed eight turnovers.
After falling behind by eight (26-18) late in the opening half, the Tigers closed strong to grab a lead at halftime. Memphis finished the half on a 13-1 run, powered by Martin. He had seven points during the run and finished the half with nine points.
The Tigers also helped their cause in the first half with a strong effort on the boards. They outrebounded Tulsa, 24-20.
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