Memphis travels to Tulsa for first game of 2021

NCAA Basketball

Memphis will finally ring in the new calendar year Sunday afternoon when it takes the court against host Tulsa.

A lot has happened since the Tigers (6-4 overall, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) last played and posted a 58-57 win over South Florida on Dec. 29, just not on the actual basketball court.

Coach Penny Hardaway’s team has seen its last three consecutive games postponed, most recently Thursday’s tilt versus SMU, which was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing protocol within the Mustangs’ program.

“It’s not the worst thing because the season could end again like it did last year. We understand we’re in a pandemic and this is happening,” Hardaway said. “This is what you have to ride with. I’m happy we’re still having a season. We just didn’t think it would be three games in a row.”

Memphis returns to Tulsa for the first time since its disheartening 80-40 setback on Jan. 22, 2020. The Tigers have since dropped a 56-49 decision to the Golden Hurricane on Dec. 21.

“We deserved that butt-whipping (last season). Man, it was embarrassing,” Hardaway said. “Then, coming back here and having that game under control and then losing it at home was very disappointing. We know we gave one away. But greatness came from that game. The new offense, the guys’ different mindsets, the understanding of how hard it is to win in this league — it all just went to another level.

“We have to go do to them what they did to us.”

Landers Nolley II, who averages a team-best 13.3 points per game, made just 2 of 10 shots from the floor — including 2 of 9 from 3-point range — against Tulsa last month.

DeAndre Williams collected 13 points and nine rebounds in that contest for the Tigers. He has played in just three games since being declared eligible by the NCAA, a decision that stems from his declaring early entry for the 2020 NBA Draft before withdrawing and transferring from Evansville.

Austin Richie had 14 points and Rey Idowu added 13 in that victory for the Golden Hurricane (7-4, 4-2), who more recently saw their six-game winning streak come to a halt with a 72-53 setback at Wichita State on Wednesday.

“We didn’t play well,” coach Frank Haith said on postgame radio, per the Tulsa World. “We just didn’t have the right pop.”

Darien Jackson had a season-high 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench versus the Shockers.

Brandon Rachal, who averages team-best totals in points (14.8) and rebounds (7.5), will look to avenge his worst game of the season. He had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting against Memphis on Dec. 21. He also had just five points on 2-of-15 shooting against the Shockers on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

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