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Jan 27, 2024 1:06 pm

No. 19 Memphis aims to get back on track in visit to UAB

Memphis became adept at winning tight games during the latter part of a 10-game winning streak that earned it a spot in the Associated Press’ Top 10.

That gift suddenly disappeared from the Tigers in consecutive setbacks to American Athletic Conference rivals South Florida and Tulane that dropped them from 10th to 19th in this week’s poll.

After a week off to iron out some weaknesses, Memphis returns to action Sunday against host UAB.

The Tigers (15-4, 4-2 AAC) squandered a 20-point first-half lead against South Florida and led by as many as seven points versus Tulane but hurt themselves with critical turnovers and inconsistent defense. Memphis committed 14 turnovers and allowed the Green Wave to hit 51 percent of their shots in the second half, often giving up straight-line drives and helping on too many occasions to leave other players open for clean looks.

The Tigers allowed Tulane to make 10 3-pointers and make more free throws (23) than they shot (22).

“We’re not in a crisis right now,” Tigers coach Penny Hardaway said, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “We’ve lost some leverage — a bunch of leverage. But we still have a team that can make it to the Final Four and play with anybody in the country. Our defense can go from horrible to great just from the tweaks we’re doing this week.”

One bright spot for Memphis was the play of fifth-year senior Malcolm Dandridge, who matched a season high with 13 points and added a career-best eight blocked shots. And while Dandridge felt like the statisticians missed a couple of blocks, he found a big picture on which to dwell.

“I tend to get caught up in winning and the game as well,” he said. “It’s just a blessing to be out here. I’ve been through some things that I shouldn’t even be able to do what I do on the court.”

David Jones leads the Tigers at 21.7 points per game, while Jahvon Quinerly adds 14.0. Quinerly will look to bounce back after committing six turnovers versus Tulane.

Meanwhile, UAB (12-7, 4-2) will look to do some bouncing back of its own after a 76-70 defeat Tuesday at Charlotte. The Blazers squandered a 10-point lead at intermission and saw the 49ers ring up 48 second-half points.

Defense has been one reason that UAB doesn’t have a better record. It’s allowed at least 73 points in every loss.

The Blazers rebound well, particularly Yaxel Lendeborg (11.5 ppg., 9.0 rebounds per game). He had 18 boards in UAB’s 83-69 win over Tulane on Jan. 17.

“When he’s playing like-size guys and that ball goes up on that rim and into traffic, nine times out of 10, Yaxel is going to come out of there with it,” Blazers coach Andy Kennedy said.

Eric Gaines leads a balanced scoring attack UAB at 12.3 ppg.

–Field Level Media

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