Western Kentucky beat Memphis 75 to 69 inside the Sanford Pentagon on ESPN TV on Thanksgiving. Memphis, favored by 4.5 points by odds makers going into the game, couldn't contain likely future NBA player and current Western Kentucky Junior Charles Bassey inside. Bassey finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 blocks in the contest. WKU's Carson Williams, a 6'5" senior, backed down players like Memphis' Landers Nolley II on the block scoring 14 points while adding 9 rebounds.
Rick Stansbury used Bassey and Williams to overmatch Memphis on offense in the half court, while Memphis tried unsuccessfully to get DJ Jeffries into the offensive flow for the Tigers. Jeffries turned in another poor performance shooting 3-of-9. Like his first game against Saint Mary's this season, Jeffries made rebounding a point of emphasis with 10 total rebounds in the game. Jeffries would finish with 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 assists in 33 minutes for Memphis. Jeffries' scoring counterpart Landers Nolley turned in 25 points (6/10 FG) with 18 of those coming from beyond the 3-point arc (6/10 3PFG). Boogie Ellis, once again coming off the bench, was second in scoring for Memphis with 14 points (5/13 FG).
Memphis will play in the 3rd place game in South Dakota on Friday against VCU in the Bad Boys Mowers Crossover Classic.
FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS:
Nov. 26, 2020
Late rally comes up short as Memphis Basketball falls to Western Kentucky
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A comeback bid in the final minute came up short as Memphis sustained its first loss of the season 75-69 against Western Kentucky in the semifinals of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic.
After a 3-pointer by Landers Nolley II, the Tigers cut a nine-point WKU lead to just two with six seconds remaining. The Hilltoppers added four free throws in the final seconds to put the game away.
Nolley II, a sophomore guard, led all scorers with 25 points. The Tigers were unable to contain WKU 6-foot-11 center and projected NBA lottery pick Charles Bassey, who led the Hilltoppers with 21 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks.
The game remained close throughout the first half with nine lead changes and three ties over the opening 20 minutes. Memphis held the largest lead of the game at 18-8 midway through the first half.
“That was a very tough one,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said. “Right now, we’re just a new team. We played an older team that knows how to win. In those games, we have to impose our will on them first, which we did, but we have to keep it on them the entire game, and we didn’t do that. I’ll learn from this, and we will get better.”
Foul line, rebounds doom Tigers
Memphis committed 23 personal fouls to WKU’s 15, allowing the Hilltoppers to shoot 13 more free throws than the Tigers. WKU made 19 of its 24 attempts at the free-throw line, while Memphis shot 54.5% (6-11).
The Hilltoppers also held a significant advantage on the glass, outrebounding the Tigers 44-32. In addition to Bassey’s 14 rebounds, WKU forward Carson Williams had nine rebounds.
Nolley II had the hot hand for Memphis, scoring 17 of the Tigers’ 35 first-half points. A preseason All-American Athletic Conference second-team selection, Nolley II made six of his 10 attempts from 3-point range and shot 52.9% from the field. He also had four assists in a team-high 35 minutes before fouling out in the final seconds.
“We’re happy to have him,” Hardaway said of Nolley II. “He’s one of the best shooters in the country, as he showed today.”
Nolley II had 11 points in Memphis’ season-opening win over Saint Mary’s on Wednesday.
Tigers 0-2 vs. WKU
With the loss, Memphis falls to 0-2 in the all-time series against WKU.
The only previous matchup was a 55-52 win by the Hilltoppers in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tournament, Hardaway’s final game as a collegiate player. Hardaway, in his third and final season as a play at Memphis, led the 10th-seeded Tigers with 17 points while playing all 40 minutes. The 7th-seeded Hilltoppers rallied to win after trailing 28-24 at the half.
The game was played at Orlando Arena, which would become Hardaway’s home venue for the next six seasons while playing for the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
In his third season as Memphis head coach, the Tigers are now 44-25 under Hardaway.
Memphis will play in the third-place game of the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic on Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The Tigers will face the loser of No. 15 West Virginia and VCU.
“We came to this tournament to learn about ourselves, and we are learning on a daily basis what we have,” Hardaway said. “We don’t have our full team back, so we are giving guys opportunities to step into positions. Tonight, we just didn’t step up enough to get the win.”