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What to expect in Memphis basketball’s third game against Alabama State

The Tigers look to improve to 3-0 heading into next week’s trip to The Bahamas.
By Roman Cleary - November 17, 2023, 1:13 pm - 1 comments

The Tigers will be back in action after a week off.

Memphis (2-0) takes on Alabama State (1-2) tonight inside FedExForum (7 p.m., ESPN+). This will be the last game the Tigers are headed by Rick Stansbury, who fills in for Penny Hardaway while the latter serves a three-game suspension.

Memphis comes off the heels of a dominant 70-55 win at Missouri last week, a game in which the former won the second half 44-22, held Mizzou to just 5 made shots in the game’s final 20 minutes and finished the contest with four double-digit scorers.

The Tigers received tons of praise from the national media for their performance inside Mizzou Arena. They received 53 votes in the AP Top 25 poll—more than any other unranked team—effectively making them the No. 26 team in the country. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish ranks the Tigers No. 18 in his Top 25 and 1 list. Jon Rothstein, an AP voter that’s also of CBS Sports, listed Memphis has his No. 25 team in his top 45 rankings. Memphis is also ranked No. 27 in KenPom.

This will be the Tigers’ final hurdle before they travel to The Bahamas to partake in this year’s Battle 4 Atlantis. They’ll open the tournament up against Michigan on Wednesday, face either Arkansas or Stanford on Thanksgiving and finally take on North Carolina, Texas Tech, Villanova or Northern Iowa depending on how the bracket shapes out.

Here’s what to expect for Memphis’ weekend tip-off against Tony Madlock’s Hornets.

Can Jahvon Quinerly continue his elite play?

The Alabama transfer point guard, simply put, was electric in Memphis’ win over Missouri last week.

Quinerly finished the contest with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in 34 minutes. He had 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the second half alone. Quinerly also shot 7-of-10 from the field and 2-4 from 3-point range. Whether he was blowing by Mizzou defenders to the rim, dropping them to the floor at the top of the key or even causing them to mindlessly leap straight into the air, Dennis Gates’ team had no answers for the Hackensack, N.J. native.

The 6-foot-1 guard proved that he’s probably Memphis’ most valuable player when at his best. The question is how often can the Tigers get that version of him. If the answer is frequently, Memphis is as dangerous as anyone in college basketball.

”Last year, my numbers [were] a little bit down. But if you go back and watch some of those games towards the end of the season, I had some big games going into the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. To get back to that level this season—it’s definitely a great feeling and I’m looking to build on it,” Quinerly said Thursday.

Will Caleb Mills and/or Jordan Brown return to the starting lineup?

Both Mills and Brown have come off the bench for Memphis since the start of the regular season.

That hasn’t stopped either from putting up numbers, however, particularly Brown. The 6-foot-11 Louisiana transfer has been quite efficient despite playing limited minutes in the Tigers’ first two games.

Brown—last season’s Lou Henson Award winner—scored 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting and grabbed 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes against Missouri. He previously compiled 11 points and 5 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action against Jackson State. This is a stark contrast from his 31.1 minutes per game he played at Louisiana last year.

Mills, a 6-foot-5 transfer guard from Florida State, is averaging 9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists through two games this season. He’s also playing 27.5 minutes per contest and shooting 35.5% from the field.

Both Nick Jourdain and Malcolm Dandridge have played well in their two respective starts, but Mills and Brown had a much larger impact on Memphis’ win over Mizzou. Most would agree that the best version of the Tigers features the latter two starting alongside Quinerly, David Jones and Jaykwon Walton.

But will that lineup once again come to fruition against Alabama State?

”We’ll see,” Hardaway said with a chuckle Thursday. “You know Madlock’s watching this, man.”

A homecoming for many

Alabama State has tons of connections both the City of Memphis and U of M basketball on this year’s team.

Memphians TJ Madlock, Amarr Knox and Tadarius Jacobs all play for the Hornets. Jacobs is a former walk-on at Memphis, Knox was once committed to the Tigers and TJ Madlock (17 points, 6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest) is the Hornets’ second-leading scorer through three games. Knox is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in that same span.

The one most will pay attention to, however, is the Hornets’ head man: Tony Madlock. After all, he was the first assistant Hardaway hired upon taking the Memphis job in March 2018. After all, he, Hardaway and the rest of Larry Finch’s 1991-92 Memphis State Tigers made a magical run to the Elite Eight. After all, Madlock is a monumental figure in Memphis basketball lore, largely because of those two things.

He’s also been a Division I coach since even before 2018—way before. He got his start as an assistant at Arkansas State in 1997. He moved on to UTEP in 2006. After that, he migrated to the SEC with both Auburn (2010-2014) and Ole Miss (2014-2018). He even became the Rebels’ interim head coach after Andy Kennedy was fired during the 2017-18 season.

Madlock’s now finally starting to mold his own path after years of standing in others’ shadows. He spent one season as South Carolina State’s head coach before arriving at Alabama State last season.

His Memphian-laden squad has been heavily tested to start this year. The Hornets dealt with road tests against both Iowa and Ole Miss. And though the former trounced Alabama State, Madlock’s team gave Chris Beard’s Rebels everything it had inside the Pavilion. Alabama State lost by just 10.

Regardless, Hardaway can tell his old friend is building something in Montgomery, Ala. Yes, their respective teams will be opponents tonight, but Hardaway still couldn’t be more elated for Madlock.

”To see [Madlock] be rewarded by South Carolina State first, and now Alabama State—it’s definitely [one of] the good stories that you want to hear about and that you love to see,” Hardaway said. “When guys just work, work, work, work—do the right thing all the time—it gets rewarded. So, I’m definitely happy for him.”


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