Tennessee’s men’s basketball team defeated Memphis 102-92 in Memphis on Saturday. The Vols led for all but a few seconds in the entire game, and they often led by a large margin.
But the play on the court wasn’t what caught headlines.
Near the end of the game, things got a little chippy between the two in-state rivals. An altercation ensued during a timeout where Tennessee and Memphis players exchanged words and got heated as both teams were heading back to the bench. Both teams got called for technical fouls, but the Tigers were whistled for two as opposed to Tennessee’s one, giving the Vols some technical free throws and possession after the timeout.
After the game, Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway was asked about that moment, and his comments drew the ire of Vol fans.
“Alex (Lomax) is a kid that’s not gonna talk trash, so obviously Jordan Bone said something to him disrespectfully,” Hardaway said about the incident on the court over the weekend. “He protected himself by, you know, saying something back. Then Jeremiah (Martin) jumped in and said something to Jordan Bone, and the referee tech’d Jeremiah.
“I said (to the ref) that the entire Tennessee team ran over to fight. You know, their entire team emptied the bench to run over. They weren’t coming over because it was a timeout. You could visibly see guys with their fists balled, talking trash to our guys or whatever.”
Hardaway would go on to say the situation was “almost like a standoff” and he asked the officials why UT’s players were allowed to come into their area and not get a technical foul. Tennessee’s Jordan Bone did get whistled for a technical, but both Alex Lomax and Jeremiah Martin of Memphis got technical fouls.
It was Hardaway’s assertion that UT’s players had their “fists balled” and ready to fight that drew the most attention. Going back and watching the film of the altercation, it’s hard to see any specific Tennessee players having their first balled up and acting particularly more aggressive than any Memphis player, however.
On Monday, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes appeared on the weekly Vol Calls radio show, and he was asked about Hardaway’s comments and the incident during the game. He looked over to Voice of the Vols and host of the show Bob Kesling and gave his response to Hardaway’s accusations.
“Here’s what I want to ask, too,” Barnes said to Kesling according to 247Sports, “at any point Saturday did you ball your fist up and get ready to fight the other commentator?”
It’s clear that Barnes wasn’t a fan of Hardaway’s comments, and he would say later on in the show that he and his coaches don’t teach their players to act the way Hardaway was accusing, but he noted that if he feels his players are being disrespected or treated unfairly, he will always stand up for them and expects them to defend themselves.
Not only did Hardaway’s comments make headlines after Saturday’s game, but one of the Tigers’ players also got attention for what he said after the game.
Senior forward Kyvon Davenport spoke to the media after the game on Saturday, and he said that he believed Memphis has “better players” and felt like the Tigers were “the better team” and would “end up blowing out” teams like Tennessee if they continued to improve this season.
“I feel like we’re better than these teams, and I feel like we just gotta execute more, and we just gotta keep working,” Davenport said. “We got the same kind of team they got, even better. And I feel like we got better players, too.
“We just all gotta keep working together, keep playing together, and we’ll end up even blowing out teams like that.”
Tennessee improved to 8-1 on the season after defeating Memphis, and they remained No. 3 in the AP Poll in the updated polls on Monday. The Vols snapped a three-game losing streak to the Tigers with the 102-92 win on Saturday, and they improved to 15-11 all-time against Memphis.