NEW ORLEANS – Playing without its three leading scorers, the Memphis Tigers cut an eight-point deficit with 4:08 to play to one possession on two occasions but could not complete the comeback in an 85-84 loss to Tulane in the American Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night in New Orleans.
Memphis (6-5, 0-1 AAC) was without DeAndre Williams (11.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Emoni Bates (10.8 ppg) and Jalen Duren (10.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) Wednesday night due to COVID-19 protocols and an injury. The Tigers had not played since Dec. 14 after a COVID-19 pause.
The Tigers were led by Landers Nolley II’s 19 points, and Jayden Hardaway added a career-high 14. Earl Timberlake also had 14 to go along with eight rebounds, and Malcolm Dandridge had a season-high 11 points.
Josh Minott contributed eight points, five rebounds, three steals and a block in 16 minutes, and Lester Quinones snagged eight rebounds to go along with seven points.
The Tigers played only eight players on the night due to the short roster.
Tulane (4-6, 1-0 AAC) was led by Jalen Cook’s 25 points. Five of Tulane’s six losses on the season have been by five points or fewer.
Trailing by eight, 81-73, with 4:08 to play, the Tigers held the Green Wave to only two field goals the rest of the way and forced four turnovers to help cut into the deficit. But despite that, Memphis was hampered by going 1-for-7 from the floor and could not take the lead at the end.
The Tigers forced a Tulane shot clock violation with just over six seconds to play, but two potential go-ahead shots in the final seconds did not find the bottom of the net.
In the second half, Memphis shot 58.6 percent (17-29), made five of its seven 3-point tries (.714) and hit 13-of-15 free throws (.867) to help facilitate the comeback attempt.
The Tigers outrebounded Tulane, 40-20, and had 20 assists on 27 field goals.
Memphis remains on the road to play Wichita State Saturday at 11 a.m. on CBS. The Tigers then return home next week to host Tulsa on Tuesday at 8 p.m. and Cincinnati next Sunday, Jan. 9, at 2:30 p.m.