WICHITA, Kan. − Wichita State has led the fight. The Memphis basketball team brought in Kendric Davis.
And DeAndre Williams. And Damaria Franklin. And Johnathan Lawson, whose triple with 1:16 to play gave the Tigers some much-needed breathing room in a game that featured 12 ties and 16 lead changes.
The Tigers’ stars led their team to a Quad 2 road win against Wichita State, 83-78, on Thursday inside a bustling Charles Koch Arena. Memphis (21-7, 11-4 AAC) clinched a first-round bye to next month’s AAC tournament with a win over the Shockers (14-13, 7-8).
Davis, who missed a game and a half last week with a right ankle injury, scored 19 points to help the Tigers escape a Shockers scare. Williams dropped to 18.
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While Davis and Williams made big numbers, Memphis position players also came to play.
Six unnamed Tigers Davis or Williams scored 5 points or more, led by senior guard Franklin, who had his best game under coach Penny Hardaway.
Alex Lomax and Malcolm Dandridge, in their second games after missing extended play with injuries, each scored 7 points.
Lawson finished with 9 points.
James Rojas: Slay tigers?
6-6 Wichita State forward Rojas was productive in his first season with the Shockers. The Alabama transfer (who has never averaged more than 5.4 points per game in a season for the Crimson Tide) entered Thursday’s game averaging 9.4 points.
But the Tigers failed to stop Rojas. Lui scored 19 points in the first half, tying his career high, which he did twice, including against Memphis on January 19.
Picking up the game from 3 points
One of Kennedy’s best attributes is his 3-point shooting. After a so-so performance in non-conference play, the UTEP transfer found his base against the competing AAC. Before getting hurt, Kennedy led the league with a 43.1% 3-point field goal percentage (25-of-58) over AAC opponents.
The Tigers proved early on that they have the manpower to step up with Kennedy out. Memphis made each of its first three attempts from deep and five of its first six. The team finished the first half 6 of 10 beyond the arc. It was a balanced effort, as Davis made two, while Williams, Lomax, Chandler Lawson and Damaria Franklin made one each.
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at [email protected] or on Twitter @munzly.