In a thrilling Thanksgiving night matchup, the Memphis Tigers clawed their way to an 84-79 victory over the No. 20-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, securing a place in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The highlight of the contest was a captivating performance by David Jones, who put up a career-high 36 points, leading the Tigers (5-0) to their fifth straight win this season.
The game, held in the Bahamas, marked the first encounter between the two programs in over two decades, and it lived up to its billing. The Tigers will now face Villanova (5-1) on Friday afternoon for the tournament championship, which promises to be an engaging spectacle.
Jones, the night star, was a picture of efficiency, converting 10-of-14 from the floor, sinking four three-pointers, and making 12-of-14 free throws. Not content with his offensive exploits, Jones also asserted himself on the defensive end, nabbing five steals. His performance was a testament to his status as the best player on the court that night.
Complementing Jones’ outstanding performance was junior forward Nicholas Jourdain, who contributed 12 points, three rebounds, and two blocks and had a perfect 5-for-5 shooting night off the bench in 21 minutes. Jaykwon Walton also added 11 points, three rebounds, and two assists in his 27 minutes on the court.
Memphis demonstrated their dominance throughout the game, even leading by as many as 10 points late in the second half. The Tigers’ defense proved critical, forcing 18 Arkansas turnovers and limiting the Razorbacks to four fastbreak points.
Jones’ scoring exploits were evenly spread over the two halves. He scored 17 of his points in the first half, including back-to-back threes in the final 23 seconds to send Memphis into the break with a 42-37 lead. A quick tie by Arkansas in the opening minutes of the second half was answered by a combined 11-point run from Jones and Jourdain. This stretched the Tigers’ lead to 60-52 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
In the final 1:10, the Razorbacks managed to close the gap to four points thrice, but the Tigers showed their resolve, making key plays to secure the victory.
In the postgame analysis, several notable points stand out. Jones’ heroics made him only the second player in Division I over the last 25 years to score 35+ points and record 5+ steals in a road or neutral-site victory over an AP Top 25 team. The other was Stephen Curry in the 2008 NCAA Tournament against Gonzaga.
The Tigers showed solid shooting with an overall percentage of 49.1 (26-53) and a season-high 24 of 30 free throws. They also racked up eight three-pointers, taking their tally to 47 through five games this season.
On the defensive end, Memphis capitalized on Arkansas’ mistakes, scoring 27 points off their 18 turnovers, and held the Razorbacks to only seven assists on 26 made field goals.
Overall, this victory illustrates the Tigers’ strong start to the season, and if their current form holds, they could be a force to reckon with as the season progresses.