FRISCO, Texas – In a season unlike any other, with stops and starts, pandemic protocols and challenges seemingly at every turn, the Memphis Tigers ended it in one of the best ways possible – by bringing a trophy back to The Bluff City after an NIT championship.
The Tigers wrapped up the 2020-21 season with a 77-64 win over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon in Frisco, Texas, to secure their second National Invitation Tournament championship in program history, joining 2002.
Memphis ends the season with a 20-8 record and on a four-game winning streak with victories in 11 of its last 13 games overall. The only losses were to top-10-ranked Houston, who is still alive in the NCAA Tournament and currently in the Elite Eight, by a combined five points. Memphis’ average defeat in its eight losses this season was just 4.4 points, including seven by single digits and its last four by one possession.
The 20-win season is Memphis’ fourth in a row, including all three seasons under head coach Penny Hardaway, and the Tigers’ 18th of the 2000s. Only five of Memphis’ 16 head coaches since World War II have won 20 games in each of their first three seasons at the helm, now including Hardaway.
Boogie Ellis led the Tigers with 23 points against Mississippi State, and he hit 4-of-7 3-point tries. Ellis also had five assists. D.J. Jeffries added 15 points and blocked five shots, and DeAndre Williams had 12 points.
Lester Quinones grabbed 16 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and he was named to the NIT All-Tournament Team.
Landers Nolley II was named the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player after averaging 16.5 points per outing in the tournament.
The NIT title could prove to be immensely beneficial to a young Tigers roster, which, according to KenPom, has an average experience level of 1.08 years. That is the youngest among teams that advanced this far into the postseason.
Along those lines, Memphis has averaged 25.8 wins in the season immediately following its five previous trips to the NIT in the 2000s. The Tigers roster amassed 58 games of postseason experience this year after entering the AAC Tournament earlier this month with a combined six games of postseason experience on its roster.
COURTESY MEMPHIS ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS