OMAHA, Neb. – The first season for University of Memphis coach Penny Hardaway came to an end Friday night in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Playing against the TCU Region’s No. 2 seed, Creighton, the Tigers dropped a 79-67 decision before 7,000 at the CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha. Tigers senior guard Jeremiah Martin scored a game-high 20 points in his final game at the UofM, while freshman guards Tyler Harris and Alex Lomax added 11 and 10 points respectively.
Creighton (20-14) placed five players in double figures and shot 51 percent, including 54 percent in the second half. Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock led Creighton with 14 points apiece
Memphis (22-14) was hoping to win and reach next week’s quarterfinals, one step shy of going to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and finals in early April, but the Tigers were outrebounded, 40-29, and were undone by foul trouble. Three Tiger starters fouled out.
“That team over there was a model of how to get things done,” Hardaway said. “But I’m proud of our guys. I still feel like this season was a success. I wish it could have been better. But we are headed in the right direction.”
Hardaway praised how hard Creighton played, a characteristic that made it difficult for the Tigers on multiple attempts to get back into the game.
“We just made too many mental mistakes,” Hardaway said. “That’s been our problem all year.”
The Bluejays wasted little time extending their 10-point halftime lead. They opened on an 8-3 run, all the points coming from Ballock, who made two 3-pointers and a short bank shot to force an early Memphis timeout. Creighton led, 48-33 with just under 17 minutes remaining.
While Creighton built a 17-point lead at 52-35 a few minutes later, the Tigers regrouped behind fullcourt pressure and free throw shooting. Memphis put together a 15-2 run in just under four minutes to trim the Bluejays lead to 54-50 with 11:37 left. The Tigers made six straight free throws during the run.
The Tigers would cut the lead to two, 54-52, on a strong drive by Martin, but Creighton pushed back ahead by 8 (64-56) a few minutes later taking advantage of Memphis foul trouble. Kyvon Davenport fouled out with 8:46 to go and Antwann Jones, his replacement, picked up his fourth with 10:15 left. He fouled out less than three minutes later.
Creighton was able to maintain double-digit leads in the closing five minutes.
The Bluejays used an 18-3 run to close the half to take a 40-30 lead at the break. Memphis led 27-22 before the Bluejays went on their run in the final 5:12. Creighton ended the half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Zegarowski.
Memphis trailed for much of the half, taking its first lead on a Martin 3-pointer from the left corner with 6:18 remaining. Creighton regained the advantage during its run, going ahead, 29-27, on a basket from Martin Krampelj.
The Tigers shot 39.4 percent in the first half, while Creighton made 17-of-35 attempts for 48.6 percent.
Martin was held to five points in the opening half going 2-of-7 shooting and having every attempt contested.
– gotigersgo.com –