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Memphis Upsets Alabama for First Top-10 Win Since 2014

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no team has been more desperate than Memphis. After rising to ninth in the AP poll after a 5-0 start, the Tigers lost four straight. Not only did the Tigers fall out of the rankings, but they also had to try to break their skid against No. 6 Alabama. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said that the Tigers had the best practice of the year the day before the game and there was a players-only meeting after their loss to Murray State.

Before their game against Alabama, Hardaway went on record saying: “Just the energy and focus and togetherness and chemistry of what I’ve seen this week, I have confidence we’re going to play harder.” Whether he believed it or was saying it to fire up his team doesn’t matter anymore. After a 92-78 win over sixth-ranked Alabama, it is clear that Memphis is far from finished. While it still remains to be seen if the Tigers can keep any consistency, Tuesday night was a great start.

Memphis Basketball college
Credit: Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Basketball Blitzes Alabama

Memphis Playing Complete Basketball

The differences between the last four games and this game were stark. One of the biggest problems with Memphis during their four-game losing streak was their inability to play as a team on either side of the court. On offense, the Tigers were too happy to have one-player isolation and the rest just stand around. Not only is that incredibly easy to stop, but it doesn’t help the players who want the ball in their hands too. Defensively, Memphis was too often slow to help when needed and unable to rotate when teams moved the ball well.

Against Alabama, Memphis basketball looked like one of the most dangerous teams in the country. While they made plenty of poor decisions stemming from trying to play “hero” at times, it happened far less than in games past. Defensively it felt as if there wasn’t a single part of the court open for the Crimson Tide. Offensively, the ball movement for Memphis was quick, efficient, and they made sure to find the open man at all times. With so much talent on the roster, if they play selfless basketball every night, few can even keep it close.

Free Throws Falling

One of the biggest strengths all season long of the Tigers was getting to the free throw line. Heading into Tuesday’s game, no team had gone to the free throw line more than Memphis. Unfortunately, one of their biggest weaknesses was free throw percentage. In their previous two losses, Memphis shot 62% and 63% from the line. In those two games, they lost by six points combined. With just average free throw shooting, Memphis would have entered the game 7-2 and likely still ranked instead of 5-4.

On Tuesday night, Memphis did both about as efficiently as a coach could ask for. The Tigers went to the line a total of 25 times compared to the Crimson Tide’s 12 attempts. Memphis made 20 of those attempts to shoot 80% from the line. The margin of victory was large enough that even a bad night would’ve been good enough. With that in mind, who knows how the game could’ve changed with a few of those shots not falling.

Either way, it’s time to celebrate in Memphis, you might just have an elite team again.


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