The Memphis Tigers are now AAC Champions after defeating the Houston Cougars in a 75-65 victory. Throughout the season, it has been a redemption year for head coach Penny Hardaway and his team after underachieving a season ago. With the leadership of star point guard Kendric Davis, the team was able to succeed with him leading the way.
For those who may have not been aware of his game, Davis has been one of the more notable talents in the AAC for the past few years. During his three seasons at SMU, his elevation as a scorer was a sight to see and he’s shown the ability to impact the game on both sides of the ball. Once he made the transfer to Memphis University, Davis understood that coach Hardaway and the program would continue to help increase his value as a player in his final year of eligibility.
Coming off of winning the AAC Player of the Year in his senior year, Davis carried his momentum into his first season at Memphis. During the regular season, he averaged 22.1 points per game on 41 percent shooting. Although Davis’ field goal percentage has always been an issue, the fact that he remains aggressive on offense has been stellar. Davis shows the ability to be dangerous anywhere on the floor. He’s very confident scoring from the perimeter while having the size and speed to finish around the basket. Also, Davis puts pressure on the defense with his ability to draw contact and make his way to the free-throw line.
The Tigers finished the regular season as the second seed in the AAC with a 13-5 record. However, the question going into the tournament was could Memphis fight through teams like Houston and Tulane in order to be crowned Conference champions. The Tigers had something to prove heading into the AAC Tournament. With so much on the line, Davis and the supporting cast stepped up to the plate and delivered monster performances.
In the Tigers’ quarterfinal matchup against UCF, Davis was nothing shy of spectacular in their win. Early in the contest, he made an effort to put the ball in the basket early with shot creation and coming off screens. While CJ Kelly was leading UCF with an efficient scoring performance, Davis and DeAndre Williams were able to weather a second-half storm with an 81-76 victory. Davis finished the contest second in scoring with 33 points on 10/16 shooting.
Moving on to the semifinal matchup against the Tulane Green Wave, Davis had his battle against Jalen Cook. While Davis shot 8/22 from the floor, it was Tulane who took a one-point win in overtime. However, the Conference Tournament would have a different result. Davis once again set the tone early, along with Williams and Elijah McCadden. The contest was one-sided the entire way as Memphis gave up only 17 first-half points. In their 94-54 victory, Davis contributed 20 points and six assists.
The journey leads to the Conference Championship matchup against the Houston Cougars. At this point, this was the ultimate test for Memphis as they suffered a two-point loss to Houston a week earlier. As Houston went into the contest without one of their leaders, Marcus Sasser, it gave the Tigers a big advantage in Sunday’s matchup.
Once again, Davis was attacking early and finding easy opportunities at the basket. The Cougars’ defense left the lane open which opened up easy finishes for Memphis. One of the biggest keys to Memphis’ success in the championship game was their ability to score off turnovers. Interrupting the passing lanes played a big part in transition baskets, which helped the Tigers extend to a 20-point lead.
Davis continued to put on a scoring clinic through the rest of the contest. He shot 3-6 from three-point range and finished the contest with 31 points to cap off their first Conference Tournament win in 10 years.
Overall, Kendric Davis has continued to shine as the Memphis Tigers leader on the floor. His leadership on and off the court has paid dividends and it resulted in a Conference Championship. As the NCAA Tournament is underway, Davis and the Tigers will look to continue the momentum and make a push for a National Championship.