Tennessee holds off late push, beats Memphis 102-92
Admiral Schofield popped his Tennessee jersey to the Memphis fans who had been screaming at him throughout the game.
The rivalry between Tennessee’s top basketball programs is back on, and the Volunteers have the upper hand for now.
Schofield scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds as third-ranked Tennessee beat Memphis 102-92 Saturday to snap a three-game skid to the in-state rival.
“We wanted to come in and make a statement for our university here on their floor,” Schofield said with a smile. “And I think we did that, so you know the crowd was chirping a little bit. So I just had to let them know. UT. UT still on top.”
The Volunteers (8-1) avoided any letdown after a week-long layoff for finals since upsetting then-No. 1 ranked Gonzaga last weekend in Phoenix. That win pushed the Vols to their highest Associated Press ranking since Feb. 25, 2008, when they went to No. 1 after upsetting another top-ranked team in Memphis.
Grant Williams added 19 points for Tennessee. Jordan Bone had 17, Jordan Bowden 12 and Kyle Alexander 10.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said they knew coming in this would be a big game for Memphis.
“We’ve got a lot of room for growth,” Barnes said.
Kyvon Davenport helped Memphis (5-5) keep Tennessee from blowing the Tigers out. He scored 26 of his career-high 31 points after halftime and had 11 boards. Tyler Harris added 10 points.
First-year Memphis coach Penny Hardaway remains winless against the Vols after going 0-2 when playing for the Tigers in the early 1990s. Simply having the former NBA star as head coach has Tigers’ fans excited enough about the future that they sold out the FedExForum for the first time since March 7, 2009, against Tulsa just before coach John Calipari left for Kentucky.
This rivalry had cooled down since that No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in 2008. It’s the first game between the programs on either end of Tennessee since January 2013.
These Vols came in with a big advantage in both size and experience with all five starters back from the team that shared the Southeastern Conference regular-season title last year. They trailed only once at 3-2 within the first minute on a trio of free throws by Harris.
With Tennessee hitting its first five shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, the Vols took a 15-5 lead on Schofield’s 3 with 16:21 left. Tennessee led 50-35 at halftime. Hardaway said the Tigers worked all week to start fast.
“Hey, man, that’s where they’re ranked No. 3 in the nation,” Hardaway said. “And we’ve just got to continue to work hard. The second half was more what we wanted, we just couldn’t put two halves together, which led us to lose by 10. When you give up 102 points on your own home floor, you’re not going to win too many of those.”
The Tigers pulled to 63-56 when Antwann Jones’ 3 capped eight straight. Schofield scored the next five for Tennessee. Davenport did his best to rally Memphis but couldn’t get the Tigers closer than eight despite hitting 10 of 12 shots.
Tennessee: The Vols finally have a true road game on their resume with the arena filled with lots of Memphis blue. Barnes wasn’t happy with his Vols turning it over 18 times, which Memphis turned into 14 points.
Memphis: Hardaway needs more time, and his 2019 recruiting class is led by James Wiseman. But he had the Tigers racing up the floor every chance they got in transition. Hardaway’s halftime adjustments were evident when the Tigers hit as many shots (10) within the first nine minutes as the entire first half.
With 47.8 seconds left during a timeout, officials gave double-technicals to Bone and Memphis guard Alex Lomax. Hardaway said Bone said something disrespectful, setting off a sequence that included the Memphis coach not getting an answer about why the Vols didn’t get a technical for leaving the bench.
“Their entire team emptied the bench to come over,” Hardaway said. “They weren’t coming over because it was a timeout. You can visibly see guys with their fists balled, talking trash to our guys or whatever it was, almost like a standoff.”
This game featured 57 fouls combined, with 35 on Memphis. Tennessee had a big edge at the free throw line (39 of 46) compared to the Tigers (16 of 22).
Tennessee: Hosts Samford on Wednesday night.
Memphis: Hosts Little Rock on Wednesday night.