MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Kyvon Davenport scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and freshman guard Antwann Jones added a career-high 16 points to lead the University of Memphis past Wichita State, 85-74, Thursday night at FedExForum to begin American Athletic Conference play.
Before 15,068, the Tigers (9-5) gave first-year coach Penny Hardaway his initial conference win by shooting 50 percent, by out-rebounding the Shockers, 35-29, and by turning the ball over only 11 times.
“I’m just proud of the team for their first conference win against a very good opponent. They play hard. They don’t go away. They challenged us in every area tonight.
“I’m proud of the effort overall. We had some mental lapses, but we overcame them with heart and hustle and got a great victory.”
The Tigers, who won their fourth straight, forced 15 turnovers and limited the Shockers (7-6) to 39 percent shooting in the first half.
“We just locked in on defense and were able to get four or five stops in a row,” said Jones, making his third start. “That allowed us to start scoring. We’re a good scoring team. We’ve just got to play defense.”
In addition to Davenport and Jones, Memphis got a solid effort from freshman guard Alex Lomax, who originally signed with Wichita State. Lomax had a team-high eight rebounds along with five assists and three steals – also team highs. He was 4-of-4 shooting and finished with eight points.
Markis McDuffie, the league’s third-leading scorer at 18 points per game, finished with 19 to lead the Shockers. Fourteen of his points came in the second half.
Wichita State opened the second half on a 9-2 run to trim a 12-point halftime deficit to 46-41. Jaime Echenique scored six straight to start the run, which was finished by Samajae Haynes-Jones, who knocked down a 3-pointer.
Memphis was ahead by only six (59-53) after a Dexter Dennis 3-pointer from the left corner, but used a 15-5 run to build a cushion. The Tigers led, 74-58, after Jones’ strong drive to the basket.
Super-sub Davenport was productive during the run. He scored five, including a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 68-56 lead.
The Tigers built a 44-32 halftime advantage behind 48 percent shooting, strong rebounding and nearly flawless play. The UofM outrebounded the Shockers, 21-15, and committed only five turnovers.
Wichita State and Memphis traded the lead in the first 12 minutes before the Tigers put together an 18-3 run to take command, 34-23. Jeremiah Martin and Jones had 3-pointers during the run, while Lomax had a key steal for a layup.
Jones led the Tigers at the half with 10 points and Davenport had eight.
Memphis travels to Houston Sunday for a conference matchup against unbeaten and nationally ranked Houston. Tipoff is 5 p.m.
The Tigers continued on a torrid early season shooting tear. Memphis shot 50 percent or better for the sixth time in seven games by making 28 of their 56 attempts.
Memphis completed its seven-game home stand, which started with a Dec. 4 win over South Dakota State. The Tigers finished 6-1 on the stand with their only loss coming to No. 3 Tennessee.
The Tigers’ string of five straight 90-point games ended, but they reached their league-leading scoring average of 85 points per game.
Memphis freshman guard Tyler Harris went 2-for-2 from the line to extend his consecutive-made free throw streak to 23.
The Shockers entered the game out-rebounding their opponents by three boards. The Tigers won the battle on the boards, 35-29.