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RECAP: No. 15 Memphis loses Caleb Mills to knee injury during win at Tulsa.

Thursday night’s contest changed rapidly once Mills went down in the first half. (Image Credit: Memphis Athletics)
By Roman Cleary - January 4, 2024, 9:43 pm - 1 comments

Memphis basketball took care of business to open AAC play.

The Tigers (12-2) won at Tulsa 78-75 to score their first victory of 2024. No. 15 Memphis now looks ahead to a two-game homestand against SMU (Jan. 7) and UTSA (Jan. 10). The Golden Hurricane, meanwhile, drop to 9-4 after winning their last four games.

Memphis shot 50% from the field and 30% from 3-point range against the Golden Hurricane. It also outrebounded Tulsa 38-28, forced 15 turnovers and shot 18-of-21 from the free throw line. The Tigers racked up 14 assists, 8 steals and 5 blocks in the victory.

Tulsa made 42% of its field goal attempts and went 12-for-34 from beyond the arc. The Golden Hurricane forced 21 Memphis turnovers while racking 12 offensive rebounds, 8 steals and 17 assists. Tulsa led the Tigers for just 1:25 of the 40-minute contest despite seven lead changes and the game being tied with under 10 seconds left.

Here are some takeaways from Memphis’ first conference win of the season.

Caleb Mills exits with devastating knee injury.

It was indeed a scary sight inside the Donald W. Reynolds Center Thursday night.

Mills, with Memphis leading Tulsa 42-33 with 2:19 left in the first half, slipped and fell to the floor while dribbling along the Golden Hurricane baseline. He immediately grabbed at his right knee, causing both direct and indirect spectators to start assuming the worst. The 6-foot-5 guard couldn’t put any weight on the knee as he was helped off the floor in front of a dead-silent crowd.

The injury left the Tigers so distraught to the point where point guard Jahvon Quinerly covered his face with both hands. Penny Hardaway also looked quite frustrated as the Florida State transfer exited the contest.

Mills was already banged up heading into Thursday’s game. He missed the entire second half against Austin Peay after injuring his hip in the first half. Hardaway later said on his radio show Tuesday that Mills had missed both of the Tigers’ practices this week.

“Caleb has been hurt all season,” Hardaway said last Saturday. “Caleb is a warrior. He’s been battling tendonitis, and that tendonitis definitely hurts. And then he hurt his hip [against Austin Peay].”

Mills watched the second half against Tulsa from the bench with his right knee in a brace. He’s averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game on 38.6% shooting this season.

Nae’Qwan Tomlin imposes his will on Tulsa.

Tomlin was always going to make a major impact for Memphis sooner rather than later.

Still, doing so to the degree he did in just his third game with the Tigers is quite impressive. The 6-foot-10 center was all over the stat sheet in the first half, finishing the period with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal in just nine minutes of action. Tomlin encapsulated his impactful start to the contest with a fastbreak slam that gave Memphis a 42-33 lead with 3:44 left until halftime.

Tomlin scored 9 more points in the second half while shooting 50% from the field, and finished the game with 17 points and 7 rebounds on a 7-for-12 clip.

Tigers can’t stop PJ Haggerty, blow 14-point halftime lead

The 6-foot-3 freshman performed as advertised against Memphis Thursday night.

He scored 17 points in the first half while shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 1-of-3 from the perimeter. The Tigers still led the Golden Hurricane 49-35 at halftime despite this, however, since no other Tulsa player scored more than 7 in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Erik Konkol’s team opened the offense a bit more in the second half, particularly from beyond the arc. The Golden Hurricane made nine 3-pointers compared to one for Memphis in the final period. This, along with a lack of focus from Memphis after Mills’ injury, allowed Tulsa to get back into the game in the second half.

The Tigers ended up on real upset alert down the stretch after blowing a 75-68 lead with 1:03 to go. Tulsa’s Cobe Williams tied the game at 75 apiece after hitting a left-corner perimeter shot with 33 seconds left. Memphis managed to get out of dodge, however, once Quinerly nailed a game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds remaining—Memphis’ only perimeter make of the half. Williams failed to answer on the other end as time expired.

Haggerty finished the game with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists on 10-of-19 shooting, leading all scorers for either team. David Jones led Memphis with 17 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 7-of-16 from the field. Quinerly and Jaykwon Walton both scored 11, with the latter also nabbing 6 rebounds. Malcolm Dandridge racked up 10 points in limited action due to 4 personal fouls.


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