It was certainly a mismatch, but it was a mismatch made in heaven. This past weekend, the University of Tennessee Volunteers traveled to Memphis as the #3 ranked team in the country, fresh off an upset of then #1 Gonzaga.
Rick Barnes’ Vols came to town as superiors to Penny Hardaway’s Tigers in almost every way.
They were bigger, faster, stronger, and more experienced. Any realistic Memphis fan knew that the even the mere thought of stealing a win was a long shot. That didn’t stop them from hoping.
The stars needed to be in perfect alignment, but alas, they were not. Memphis found themselves at halftime down 15 points. Their shooting started off as cold as ice. At one point in the first half, they were shooting 7.7%, missing both open and contested shots alike.
However, the hometown crowd never gave up. They had waited years to see these two teams face off, and they were wishing with all their might. All it would take was a three, a stop, and an additional three and the roof would have blown off the place.
The Tigers tried to make several pushes in the second half, pulling the lead under 10 multiple times. The man who showed the most effort for the Tigers was Keyvon Davenport, coming off the bench. He earned himself a game high 31 points with 4-5 shooting from three on top of 11 rebounds, 8 of them offensive.
Tyler Harris, the Tiger’s flashy point guard and leading scorer, shot 1-9 from beyond the arc.
For Tennessee, it was the regular cast of characters who took care of business. Admiral Schofield put up a line of 29 points and 11 rebounds, while Grant Williams added 19 points and 5 boards. In total, 5 different Vols scored in double figures. Yves Pons was the only Vol starter to not score 10 or more and that was due to only playing 11 minutes because of early foul trouble.
Speaking of fouls, there were a total of 57 plays whistled dead due to contact. 57!! 35 fouls were committed by the home team and 22 by the visitors. Tennessee shot 39-46 from the charity stripe and Memphis converted on 16 of 22 of their attempts from the line. The disparity at the line was not the main reason Memphis lost, but it certainly killed the momentum for any potential comebacks.
However, the rivalry is back.
How do I know this?
With under a minute left, three players were assesed technical fouls when several UT players ran over to the Memphis huddle and started taunting the Tigers. Coach Hardaway was getting his first real dose of big game coaching and officiating. He, much like his team, never gave up.
When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard showed 102-92, with the Tigers hitting a three right before the end to make the game look more respectable.
After the game was over, Volunteer guard Admiral Schofield paraded around the perimeter of the court while showcasing the white letters across the chest of his orange jersey.
Some Memphis fans took significant offense to that disrespectful gesture. However, my sentiment aligns with Admiral on this one.
This game signified the start to something great, something fun, something worthwhile. It means that Memphis basketball is back on the map. We are important, and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Feature Image [Twitter profile of @Local24Jessica]