April 16, 2024

Memphis Tigers Claw Their Way to Victory Over Michigan in Battle 4 Atlantis Opener

– Photo Credits – Madison Penke / Madison Penke Photography

Memphis Tigers Claw Their Way to Victory Over Michigan in Battle 4 Atlantis Opener

In an electrifying display of college basketball, the Memphis Tigers overcame the Michigan Wolverines with a decisive 71-67 victory in the Battle 4 Atlantis opener on Wednesday night. The star of the evening was none other than freshman Ashton Hardaway, who announced his arrival on the national stage with 17 points, leading the Tigers into the semifinals, where they will face No. 20 Arkansas.

Showing no signs of inexperience, Hardaway, in a span of 18 minutes, demonstrated his scoring prowess by connecting on six of his nine attempts, including five three-pointers. His performance was part of a triumvirate of double-figure scorers for the Tigers, including David Jones and Caleb Mills.

Despite a tough night, Jones contributed 11 points, four rebounds, and two assists and played a vital role in the closing minute by knocking down six free throws that ensured the Tigers’ win. Not to be outdone, Mills added 10 points and four rebounds, dazzling the crowd with a first-half crossover move that sent a Michigan defender sprawling.

Under the guidance of head coach Penny Hardaway, for the first game of the regular season after a three-game suspension, the Tigers put on a defensive masterclass unlike anything seen this season. They held the Wolverines, who averaged a staggering 91.5 points per game, to a mere 67 points, 24.5 below their season average. Michigan’s shooting was restricted to a season-low 39.3 percent, and they saw a season-high 18 turnovers.

The tenacious Memphis defense exploited these turnovers, converting them into 21 points and achieving a lead of 16 points in the second half. The Tigers went into the halftime break with a comfortable 37-25 lead, courtesy of a 17-6 run that capitalized on Michigan’s faltering offense.

Despite a spirited comeback from Michigan in the second half, reducing the deficit to a mere two points with 9.1 seconds left on the clock, Jones’ last nine points kept Memphis in the lead. Wolverines’ Olivier Nkamhoua and Nimari Burnett fought hard, contributing 18 and 16 points respectively.

The Tigers’ starting lineup, featuring Jahvon Quinerly, Caleb Mills, Jaykwon Walton, David Jones, and Jordan Brown, showcased their offensive and defensive prowess. They shot 43.9 percent overall and an impressive 41.7 percent from the three-point line. This is the third time this season that the Tigers have made double-digit triples in a game, matching the yearly totals from the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

Photo Credits – Damon Jones / 4SSM

Hardaway’s five three-pointers are the most by a freshman Tiger since Boogie Ellis achieved a similar feat against Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 8, 2019. The Tigers’ defense was also noteworthy, holding its third-straight opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field. 

Despite losing the rebound battle 50-28 to Michigan, the Tigers managed to pull off a win, marking the first time since at least the 2010-11 season that they have been outrebounded by 22 or more and still emerged victorious. Their bench also outscored Michigan 32-10, contributing to the overall triumph.

As the Tigers advance to the semifinals, their performance against Michigan sends a clear message to their future opponents: underestimate them at your peril.

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