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Penny Hardaway has seen enough.
The Memphis basketball coach is going back to the basics after the Tigers suffered their first defeat and failed to score more than 60 points in the NIT Season Tip-Off last week in Brooklyn, New York.
Hardaway said he has spent the days leading into Wednesday's game at Georgia (6:15 p.m., SEC Network) reimplementing the motion-oriented offensive system that helped save the Tigers' season in 2020-21.
Memphis (5-1) has been plagued by the worst turnover average in Division I (20.3 per game). According to Hardaway, Memphis has struggled to adapt to the freedom of a system designed to play to the strengths of freshman sensations Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren.
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“I trusted them with what we teach in practice to carry it over into the games, but they used that and abused that,” Hardaway said. “Now, I have to make it more structured. (This) offense isn’t set up for you to go and shoot the ball every time. It’s designed for the ball to move. Now, they have no excuse to break the offense down. They can’t go one-on-one out of it. They’re gonna stay within the scheme of things and it’s gonna be much better for us.”
Hardaway said the simplified scheme revolves around the same principles as the system he adopted last season that sparked a 15-4 finish and an NIT championship run.
“We tried to run more middle ball screens to try to play more of a two-man game and that just didn’t bode well for us,” he said. “That wasn’t our strength. So, we’re gonna play to our strengths now. It will be a pick-and-roll, but it’ll be at the end of different actions before we decide to get into a pick-and-roll.”
In the wake of Hardaway's announcement, many onlookers have wondered aloud why the fourth-year coach strayed from what worked so well last season.
"We changed it up a little bit earlier, well, a lot, because we had Emoni coming in and Jalen coming in (and we were trying) to fit their talent," he said. "But we're seeing that they're kind of struggling in those areas. And I'm just making things easier for everybody."
One of the areas the Tigers have grown increasingly deficient in is ball movement. Only once has Memphis finished a game with more than 15 assists this season. In its two games at the Barclays Center last week, against Virginia Tech and Iowa State, the Tigers’ combined total was 18. The changes to the offense, Hardaway said, should not only address that issue, it should also help cut down the number of empty possessions.
“I think the turnovers go down, too, because the ball is going to be in the people’s hands we need it to be in,” Hardaway said. “It’s not like equal opportunity play where everybody can just go. You’re gonna know where your reads are. You’re gonna know where you have your opportunities.
“You’ve got to harness everything and bring it back to normal. It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel. We’re just going back to what we ran last year.”
Junior guard Lester Quinones said the sky’s the limit if the Tigers can get their turnover issues under control.
“I feel like we could be the best team in the country when we move the ball, when we swing the ball and everybody’s touching it,” he said. “With the talent we have, that’s our only – I feel like that’s our main problem right now is just those turnovers. Averaging 21 a game is insane to me.”
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at email@example.com or on Twitter @munzly.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis basketball: Penny Hardaway getting Tigers back to basics offensively