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Despite injuries and foul trouble, Tigers pull off 70-63 win vs. SMU to advance to AAC Championship

Published: Mar. 12, 2022 at 8:37 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Going into the Tigers AAC semifinal matchup with SMU, Penny Hardaway said he loved it because he knew it would be competitive and bring everything out of you. It took everything from Memphis to pull off a 70-63 win over the Mustangs to advance to their first conference championship game since 2016.

Adversity is nothing new with this team. In the 2nd half, Jalen Duren went down with a hand injury and was taken to the locker room. Then Tyler Harris left with a cramp, followed by DeAndre Williams fouling out with ten minutes to play. It felt like deja vu from earlier in the season. However, Duren came back with his left hand taped and the Tigers pulled through to get the win, leaning on early season experiences.

“The Georgia game how we lost, the ECU game how we lost, how we gave up a bunch of points to Murray State in the second half. A 50 point half for them to win,” Hardaway recollected. “Playing against a team last night that, all the experiences we had with the nine losses are coming into play right now when we get into adversity.”

During all those moments, head coach Penny Hardaway said Earl Timberlake was the difference-maker for Memphis. Timberlake hasn’t played much recently, but when his number was called in the most important game of the season, he was ready. Timberlake put on a 9 point and 5 rebound performance.

According to Timberlake, “Coach just preaches to be ready for your moment and I was ready. I got to play.”

“We understand who he is we call him ‘Easy’ because he’s easy-going, but we know he has game,” Hardaway said. “He was ready for his moment, he was ready for his opportunity. I told him it could be an obligation or it could be an opportunity. He seized the moment and took advantage of an opportunity and came in and played big for us. I’m really proud of him.”

The Tigers will meet Houston for the third time this season in the championship game. The Tigers beat the Cougars twice in the regular season, this time it’s for the conference tournament title. Tip off Sunday at 2:15pm.

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