July 18, 2024

#23 Memphis Hosts #22 Virginia in Tuesday Night Spotlight Meeting

- Photo Credits - Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

The vibrancy of basketball in Memphis will be on full display Tuesday night when the No. 23 Memphis Tigers host the No. 22 Virginia Cavaliers at the FedExForum in a key early-season clash, the first ranked-versus-ranked matchup at the venue since March 8, 2014. The game, scheduled to tip-off at 6 p.m., will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

The Memphis Tigers (8-2) enter the contest on a high, having secured their third consecutive win with a nail-biting 79-77 victory over the No. 13 Clemson Tigers on Saturday. This triumph marked the fifth of the season for Memphis against a Power Five opponent, underlining their status as a team not to be taken lightly. It also represents the best start to a season for the Tigers since the 2019-20 campaign.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

Meanwhile, the Virginia Cavaliers (9-1) have been no slouches themselves. Despite trailing for over 32 minutes and facing a daunting 13-point deficit in the second half, the Cavaliers clawed their way back to eke out a 56-54 home win against Northeastern on Saturday.

The upcoming encounter will not be the first time these two sides have locked horns. They previously met in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the Cavaliers clinched a 78-60 victory and sealed their first Sweet 16 berth since 1995.

On paper, Virginia enters Tuesday’s matchup as one of the most formidable defensive units in the nation, ranking second in scoring defense (53.3 ppg) and turnovers per game (8.0). The Cavaliers’ 35.9-percent mark in field goal defense is the fourth-best in the country, providing them with a robust foundation on which to build.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

In contrast, Memphis offers a potent offense, averaging 79.6 points per game with a plus-5.2 scoring margin. The Tigers have shown a knack for taking the ball away, averaging 8.6 steals per game, while also frequently finding a way to get to the free-throw line–more than 22 times on average per game.

The Tigers’ offensive prowess is largely thanks to the stellar performances of forward David Jones and guard Jahvon Quinerly. Jones, a native of the Dominican Republic, recently tallied his fourth consecutive 20-plus point game and leads the team in scoring (20.3 ppg), rebounding (6.5 rpg), and steals (2.3 spg). Quinerly, who was named to the American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll on Monday, is contributing 13.7 points and 4.9 assists per game, demonstrating his importance to the Tigers’ offensive setup.

In terms of rankings, the game also carries substantial weight. Memphis is currently No. 34 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings through games of Dec. 17, providing them with another Quadrant 1 opportunity on Tuesday. Virginia, ranked No. 23 in the NET, brings a 3-1 record against Q1 and Q2 teams.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

Memphis’ last outing against Clemson showcased their determination and ability to respond under pressure. Despite trailing by seven at halftime, the Tigers ignited a swift 13-1 run just four-and-a-half minutes into the second half, which proved instrumental in their victory. Additionally, the Tigers turned the ball over just six times, indicating a level of discipline that could be key in their upcoming fixture.

Virginia, on the other hand, has been maintaining a five-game winning streak, with their only loss this season coming against Wisconsin on Nov. 20. The team’s hallmark under head coach Tony Bennett has been a steadfast defense. The Cavaliers also have sharpshooter Isaac McKneely, who leads the nation in 3-point shooting accuracy, draining 55.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

With the FedExForum set to be decked out in a sea of blue for the “Blue Out,” Tuesday’s game promises to be thrilling. It will be a classic showdown between Memphis’ high-octane offense and Virginia’s suffocating defense, providing a tantalizing spectacle for fans and neutrals alike. The clash also offers both the Tigers and the Cavaliers a golden opportunity to make a statement of intent as they navigate the early stages of what promises to be a competitive and unpredictable season.

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