With their season at an end, the University of Memphis Tigers hosted the Highland Hundred banquet this past Sunday (Dec. 8). Outgoing seniors and outstanding players were honored at the event.
Senior running back Brandon Hayes was awarded the DeAngelo Williams MVP award. Hayes tallied 860 yards rushing and 119 yards receiving with seven touchdowns, which also helped him win the Isaac Bruce Offensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season.
Anthony Brown won the John Bramlett Defensive Player of the Year for recording 52 tackles (four for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. Brown is a junior college transfer and has totaled 86 tackles in his two seasons at Memphis.
All hands were on deck on a cold Monday night at FedExForum. Every Memphis Grizzlies player not injured put in playing time. And all of this fresh off of yet another player having joined the injured list.
With that painful backdrop and home-losing woes to contend with, the Grizzlies persevered, racking up a much-needed 95-84 win against the 6-16 Orlando Magic.
Before the game, the Grizzlies announced that Quincy Pondexter is out indefinitely with a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot. Pondexter sustained the injury on Saturday (Dec. 7) as Memphis fell to the Golden State Warriors 108-82. He went down in the first half and did not return. Pondexter was in the starting lineup that night, replacing Tony Allen, who was out with a right hip contusion.
As a photojournalist with a particular eye for sports, capturing images of the University of Memphis Tigers and the Memphis Grizzlies is a thrill a minute regardless of the competition or the outcome.
For Memphis Grizzlies players, joining the sick and shut in does not come as a surprise. Tony Allen and Ed Davis have now been added to the injury list.
After recently losing center Marc Gasol (left MCL sprain) and Zach Randolph (toe injury), Allen missed Thursday's home game (Dec. 5) against the Los Angeles Clippers with a hip contusion. In the second quarter of the match-up, Davis left with a left ankle sprain and did not return.
The Grizzlies fell to the Clippers 101-81 in front of a crowd of 15,112. But it wasn't a lack of effort or energy that caused the loss. At least Randolph doesn't think so.
Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley was back in his normal space – mind and body – on Tuesday (Dec. 2). He didn't have to carry the weight of the team.
"I thought Mike Conley didn't look as tired as he normally does because we put our bodies on people and got him open," said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger.
"Then he can make plays. He's dropping it off. He got 14 assists. I can imagine a lot of those are to our bigs when they're rolling to the basket or punching it underneath the backboard."
Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger entered the interview room with his usual demeanor – calm. Memphis had just suffered a fourth straight loss at the FedExForum, losing to the struggling Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
"I have no idea to be honest," Joerger said, responding to a question about why the team is having such success on the road (five consecutive victories), yet struggling for a win at home.
"I don't know why we ease into games. It's something that I've talked about in the first three timeouts. We have to hit, we have to screen, we have to get people off of Mike Conley and we have got to get Mike Conley off a big number. We just let them get their hands on us and muck everything up."
Every time a team takes the field, it has to be ready to play. Plenty of great teams have been beaten by lesser opponents because they overlooked their competition.
The University of Memphis Tigers are by no means a "great" football team, so it is even more essential to come into every game ready to give all. Headed into their game this past Saturday (Nov. 30) against the Temple Owls, the Tigers were actually a 10-point favorite.
Perhaps that line got to Memphis' head because the Tigers certainly didn't live up to that projection. It was Senior Day at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and unfortunately it wasn't the send-off that the upperclassmen would have imagined.