At The Horn: Tigers dominate Magicians in Hardaway premier

By Updated: October 26, 2018 12:26 AM CT | Published: October 26, 2018 12:25 AM CT

The much-anticipated debut of Penny Hardaway on the Memphis sideline was a runaway success Thursday night as the Tigers easily defeated LeMoyne-Owen 120-66 in the first semi-official game of the Hardaway era.

The preseason contest was a soft opening for Hardaway, responsible for an enthusiastic jolt to the Memphis program the minute he was hired in March. Hardaway replaced Tubby Smith, who dragged the team to irrelevancy in the basketball-crazed city during his two seasons as Tigers coach.

Freshman Tyler Harris led the Tigers with 26 points, including connecting on 5 of 10 from 3-point range. Kyvon Davenport finished with 19 points, on 7 of 9 shooting, including making all four shots from beyond the arc. Isaiah Maurice added 18 for Memphis, which finished the night shooting 51 percent from the field.

"I never got butterflies today," Hardaway said of his first-game emotions. "Everyone kept asking me about the butterflies, but I didn't get any.

"I don't know at what point during the season they will happen, but they didn't happen (Thursday)."

Devin Booker led the Magicians with 21 points, connecting on 7 of 14 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Andrew Anderson finished with 11 points.

"Right now, we are still in the teaching phase as coaches," Hardaway said. "We are using these exhibition games to get ready for Tennessee Tech (on Nov. 6)."

While play seemed a bit undisciplined on occasions, there also were flashes of the speed and pressure defense Hardaway has promised. Fastbreak baskets midway through the first half, stretched the Memphis lead to 25 with about 8 minutes left before the break.

LeMoyne was struggling at 26 percent shooting, connecting on only one of its first 10 3-pointers and suffering through nine turnovers as the Tigers built the lead. Those Magician turnovers came from quick-handed, trapping defense by Memphis.

The Tigers lead would swell to 59-25 at the break after Harris buried a long 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the half, giving him 4 of 5 from outside the arc in the first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Maurice was working the inside, connecting on 6 of 8 in the half for 12 points.

Anderson led LeMoyne-Owen with 9 points.

Near the 14-minute mark of the second half, Memphis was up 90-42.

Walk-on Evin Olds – the last available player for Memphis -- entered the game with 6:33 left and the Tigers up 107-55.


LeMoyne-Owen: The Magicians went almost 3 minutes without scoring, missing their first four shots to open the game. …Had 14 turnovers in the first half and 27 in the game. …Missed 10 of its first 11 3-pointers.

Memphis: Hardaway started three players from Memphis – freshmen Alex Lomas, Harris, along with returning senior Jeremiah Martin. But Hardaway did a hard shuffle on lineups through much of the game. …Raynere Thornton also had 18 points, while Jeremiah Martin added 11. …The Tigers converted 55 percent of their shots before halftime and committed only six turnovers. …Memphis reached 100 points on a free throw by Antwann Jones with 8:19 left.


Hardaway’s coaching style seems to be more standing than sitting. The new Tigers coach spent the bulk of the game standing at the very front edge of the coaching box – sometimes venturing past the restricted area toward midcourt. The only time he really sat was during timeouts when the Tigers gathered in a semicircle on the court rather than in the bench area.


For those who have watched Tiger teams struggle in the past at the free throw line, here's a pleasant stat -- Memphis made 24 of 32 free throws for the game, and that included Victor Enoh  making 1 of 6. 

"I didn't really stress shooting 75 percent from the free throw line," Hardaway said. "I stressed moving the ball and my most proud stat was 32 assists. That is really sharing and distributing the ball."


LeMoyne-Owen: Entertain Tougaloo on Saturday.

Memphis: Plays CBU on Nov. 2.


Memphis Tigers Basketball LeMoyne-Owen Penny Hardaway Exhibition game
Clay Bailey

Clay Bailey

Clay Bailey, a lifelong Memphian, has worked as a reporter in the city almost four decades. He concentrated on suburban coverage. He also is a freelance sportswriter for the Associated Press.

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