Memphis seeks progress against Mississippi Valley State

NCAA Basketball

If the season’s first five games are any indication, the scoreboard operator in Memphis figures to be busy on Tuesday night.

That’s because the Tigers, who have scored in the 80s in consecutive wins over Arkansas State and Central Arkansas, are hosting a Mississippi Valley State squad that has yielded at least 88 points in losing each of its first five games.

And if Memphis coach Penny Hardaway has anything to say about it, his team will be ready to play after a lackluster first half Friday night in the win over Central Arkansas. Trailing 42-40 at intermission, the Tigers roared back in the second half for an 85-68 decision.

“This game was a lot tougher than we wanted,” Hardaway said, “but it’s the type of game that you can use the film from to show the good and the bad to the guys and grow from it. Every game isn’t going to be perfect or pretty. I’ll take the win for sure.”

Virginia Tech transfer Landers Nolley came off the bench to pump in 23 points for Memphis (3-2), which also got 15 points in a solid all-around game from D.J. Jeffries. Nolley is the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, canning 42.9 percent from the 3-point line.

The Tigers are struggling to take or make good shots so far, connecting on just 41 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from the 3-point line. But they are forcing 18.8 turnovers per game, including 30 on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Mississippi Valley State is going through some expected struggles. Second-year coach Lindsey Hunter, a long-time NBA player, is undergoing a total rebuild. Just two players return from last season’s 3-27 team, although one of them is his son, second team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference pick Caleb Hunter.

The Delta Devils have yielded 107.8 points per game, including 142 in their season opener at Arkansas, and have lost every game by at least 27 points. Their 96-69 setback Sunday at Western Kentucky is actually their closest game of the year.

Kam’Ron Cunningham pumped in 23 points against the Hilltoppers, upping his team-high scoring average to 14.4 points per game. Mississippi Valley State is perimeter-oriented to the max on offense, launching 35 3-pointers per game and making 33 percent.

This will be the first meeting of the schools. A maximum crowd of nearly 3,000 will be allowed at FedEx Forum.

–Field Level Media

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