KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Even the newcomers on Memphis’ freshmen-laden roster who didn’t play in a loss to Tennessee last year understood the importance of avenging that defeat.
The 13th-ranked Tigers got their revenge Saturday. Not only did Memphis beat its in-state rival, it snapped the longest active home winning streak of any Division I team and prevented Tennessee coach Rick Barnes from reaching a career milestone.
Damion Baugh sank a 3-pointer with 1:43 remaining to put Memphis ahead for good and the Tigers outlasted No. 19 Tennessee 51-47 to end the Volunteers’ 31-game home winning streak.
“We came in with a little chip on our shoulders to get some revenge,” said freshman D.J. Jeffries, who scored 11 points and assisted on Baugh’s go-ahead basket. “We did that and I couldn’t be more happy with the guys. We grew up today, so I’m proud of everyone.”
Tyler Harris also scored 11 points and Baugh added 10 for Memphis (9-1), which found a way to win despite scoring just five points in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Josiah-Jordan James scored 14 for Tennessee (7-2). The Vols shot 25% — their lowest field-goal percentage of Barnes’ five-year tenure — and were just 4 of 26 from 3-point range.
“You need to let this loss hit you, but you can’t let it bog you down,” Tennessee forward John Fulkerson said. “You’ve got to know how it feels to lose, but then you’ve got to just forget about it and be on to the next game.”
Tennessee’s loss prevented Barnes from becoming the seventh active Division I coach to reach 700 victories. Barnes’ 699 career wins include a 94-84 victory at Memphis last year that was most notable for comments made in the aftermath.
Tigers coach Penny Hardaway said Tennessee players approached Memphis’ bench late in the game “with their fists balled.” When Barnes said a few days later that the NCAA should consider penalizing players for flopping, Hardaway perceived those comments to be directed at Memphis and called them “kind of low class.”
The sellout crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena showered Hardaway with boos as he walked onto the court before Saturday’s game. Jeffries said Memphis players started getting booed as soon as they walked off the bus.
“When I read those statements today, it kind of made me cringe a little bit, so I kind of understood what was going to happen,” Hardaway said. “I felt like it got misunderstood, but then when I read it, it wasn’t a good look.”
That crowd may have made an early impact as Memphis scored just five points in the first 12 minutes and went 10-plus minutes without making a basket during one stretch. One week after erasing an early 20-point deficit in a victory at UAB, Memphis was trailing Tennessee 17-5 midway through the first half.
“When you have a young team, you just really don’t know,” said Hardaway, who started four freshmen Saturday. “We were well prepared, but you never can account for the nervous energy. Last week at UAB, I think they took those guys lightly, and they jumped on us, and this week I think they were too hyper to get into the game because they knew what kind of game it was going to be. That’s what you get with young teams.”
Neither team led by more than four in the second half. Memphis was trailing by a point when Jeffries drove the baseline and passed to Baugh, who sank an open 3-pointer to put the Tigers ahead to stay at 49-47.
Tennessee had a chance to tie with 22 seconds remaining, but Yves Pons missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Memphis’ Alex Lomax sank both ends of a one-and-one with 7.9 seconds left to seal the victory.
Memphis: The Tigers are winning without some of their best players. Memphis played a seventh consecutive game without suspended forward James Wiseman and a fourth straight game without injured guard Lester Quinones.
Wiseman, a likely NBA lottery pick averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds, is serving a 12-game suspension because Hardaway gave the forward’s family $11,500 to cover expenses for its move from Nashville to Memphis in the summer of 2017. Hardaway wasn’t coaching Memphis at the time, but the NCAA determined he was acting as a booster.
Tennessee: The Vols got very little from their senior backcourt duo of Jordan Bowden and Turner, their two leading scorers this season. Bowden and Turner had just five points apiece in this one. Turner shot 1 of 11 (0 of 5 on 3-pointers) and Bowden was 2 of 10 (1 of 6 on 3-pointers).
This marked the second straight season Tennessee and Memphis have faced each other as part of a three-game contract that also includes a neutral-site matchup next season in Nashville. The long-term future of the series remains unclear.
“I’d love to keep it going,” Hardaway said. “Like I said, it just kind of got out of hand last year. I have always had respect for Coach Barnes.”
Memphis has a shot at cracking the top 10 after producing a big road victory without Wiseman or Quinones. Tennessee figures to fall into the 20s.
Memphis hosts Jackson State on Dec. 21.
Tennessee visits Cincinnati on Wednesday.
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