Tubby Smith sees progress. The Tiger coach watched his team score its most points this season Tuesday night . . . while also giving up its most. But during his postgame press conference, Smith emphasized that his club is (1) taking better shots, (2) limiting who handles the ball and how much, and (3) playing more unselfish basketball. Five Tigers scored at least 10 points (and one scored 31) as Memphis evened its American Athletic Conference record at 2-2 and improved to 11-6 for the season.
"We're trying to figure out what we do best," noted Smith. "Everybody understanding their roles."
The Tigers played their best opening half of the season, putting up 50 points in taking a 19-point lead over the Green Wave. They shot 58 percent and thoroughly dominated where it often matters most, pulling down more than twice the number of rebounds (22) of their opponent (10).
Impact play from Mike Parks
(16 points on seven-of-nine shooting), Kyvon Davenport
(15 points in just 18 minutes), Jimario Rivers
(12 points off the bench), Jamal Johnson
(10 points), and Kareem Brewton
(seven points and seven rebounds off the bench) supported another stellar game from Jeremiah Martin
. The junior point guard played every minute of the game and scored a career-high 31 points, hitting all 15 of his shots from the foul line. It was the sixth 20-point game of the season for Martin. He's the only Tiger to score as many as 20 in a contest this season.
"Team effort," emphasized Martin. "We can't do it by ourselves. We haven't started thinking about seeding [in the AAC tournament]. Just trying to get better. We may not be the most talented team, but we play hard, and try to do the little things."
The Tigers got sloppy with the ball late in the game and a flurry of three-pointers by Tulane (particularly Jordan Cornish) closed the Memphis lead to five points (91-86) with 30 seconds to play. But Davenport made a key steal and the Tigers hit their free throws to secure their 11th win in 12 home games this season. The loss drops Tulane to 11-5 (2-2).
"Our guys stuck with the game plan for the most part," said Smith. "We got balanced scoring. We did a good job defensively in the first half, really challenged shots. [Jeremiah] was locked in from the beginning of the game. We probably should have gotten him some rest, but we needed his steadiness."
Parks had his second-straight 16-point game after not scoring 10 in the Tigers' first 15 games of the season. "I knew I had a big role to fill," he said. "They really didn't have a big guy last year. And I'm starting to rise."
"[Parks] allows Jeremiah and other players to flow smoothly," noted Smith, "because they're not double-teamed. We can get opposing players in foul trouble by attacking the basket."
Tulane's Cameron Reynolds was held to 11 points and four rebounds, considerably below his averages of 16.7 and 6.7. Melvin Frazier led the Green Wave with 28 points.
The Tigers travel to Temple Saturday in search of their first win away from FedExForum (they're 0-5). The Owls lost to Tulane (85-75) on December 28th. Memphis has not won at Temple since the 2013-14 season, its first as a member of the AAC.