Tigers battle adversity, head to first conference title game under Hardaway

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) – What a win for the U of M beating SMU in a home game for the Mustangs, overcoming every hurdle – from injuries to foul players, these guys played their hearts out and it was amazing to watch .

“Man, I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Tigers coach Penny Hardaway said. “They did a hell of a job.”

Things looked bleak in the 2nd half. Jalen Duren and Tyler Harris were both injured, they would both return later, and then DeAndre Williams – the heart of this team – fouls with 10 minutes left.

“We know Dre,” Hardaway said. “He felt like he let us down. So the only thing he could do was cheer and be on the sidelines keeping the energy positive and that’s what he was going to do. He wasn’t just going to sit there and pout because he fould him, he wanted us to win the game to get a second chance.

“With those nine losses, we’ve been through a lot of different things,” veteran Tigers guard Alex Lomax said. “In practice, we sometimes played small. We just had a lot of experience in those aspects. We just did a great job adjusting with Coach Penny, putting ourselves in the right positions to weather the storm.

And what a night for guard Earl Timberlake, who scored 9 points and 5 rebounds. Getting a crucial lay-up five minutes from time to tie the game up and restart the momentum in the direction of the Tigers.

He told us he was just biding his time.

“Coach [Penny Hardaway] preach just be ready for your moment and i was ready. I have to play today,” laughed Timberlake.

“We call him Easy, he’s easy going, but we know he has game and was ready for his moment,” Hardaway said. “He was ready for his opportunity. I told him it could be an obligation or 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.

It was also a great demonstration of Lomax.

Not making big plays offensively with a team high of 12 pts, but also defensively with 2 blocks and a game high of 4 interceptions.

“Nothing surprises me about him, he’s a winner,” Hardaway said. “We always talk about winners winners, he just makes winner plays the whole game.”

“After sitting out last year especially in the same training arenas when I couldn’t even run at full speed and now we’re going there and I can be on the court, I’m very grateful,” Lomax says after the game. “Just to be healthier than I was last year. Just to see the fans come out and be able to give their all for Memphis is just the most important thing to me every day.

The Tigers will now face Houston in the final of the AAC tournament. Tipping is set at 2:15 p.m. at Dickies Arena.

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