MEMPHIS, Tenn-University of Memphis junior forward Raynere Thornton was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Monday for his contributions in the Tigers’ league wins over No. 23 Houston and UConn.
Thornton scored a career-high 21 points on 4-of-5 shooting (all 3-pointers) and 9 of 9 free throws in the U of M’s 91-85 upset of the Cougars Thursday at FedExForum. He followed with 16 points in Sunday’s 83-79 win at UConn and, once again, proved to be accurate from long range. Thornton made a career-high five 3-pointers on six attempts.
In earning his first player of the week honor, Thornton – who came off the bench in both games — joined teammate Jeremiah Martin as the only Tigers who have been selected POW. Martin earned his Jan. 15.
Thornton, from Marietta, Ga., was a model of efficiency against Houston. He scored his 21 points in 19 minutes and also grabbed five rebounds, allowing the Tigers to offset the loss of Martin, who broke his left foot in the first half.
In the second half against the Cougars, Thornton scored 16 of his points and helped the Tigers overcome a six-point halftime deficit. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Thornton trimmed the Houston lead to 58-57 with 13 minutes left and his two free throws a few minutes later gave the Tigers a 63-62 lead. During a 17-6 run that gave the Tigers a 76-68 advantage with 6 ½ minutes to go, Thornton had eight points.
Against UConn, Thornton shot the Tigers back into the game in the first half. With Memphis trailing by 10 (23-13) with nine minutes left, Thornton knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to trigger a rally. The Tigers finished the half on a 28-8 run to take a 41-31 lead at the break.
The Tigers (18-11, 9-7 American) have won four straight and will close the regular season with home games Thursday against USF and Sunday against East Carolina. The USF game tips off at 8 p.m. Tiger seniors Jimario Rivers and Alex Moffatt will be honored before the ECU game, which begins at 2 p.m.