In a sea of white rally towels every Memphis basketball fan occupying the closest seats to the FedExForum floor, one fan waved proudly her blue towel with a simple message scrawled across it.
“Beat Ole Miss,” it read in all capital letters.
As if on cue, that’s just what the Tigers did Saturday. DeAndre Williams, Kendric Davis and Alex Lomax combined to inflict 40 minutes of misery on the Rebels (6-2). By the time it was over, Memphis (6-2) beat Ole Miss 68-57 on Saturday, running its win streak to four.
Ole Miss had no answer, no recourse and no remedy for Williams, who missed a triple-double by three assists. The Tigers’ second-leading scorer this season led the way with 17 points and gave them a boost on the boards, grabbing a career-best 14 rebounds, to pick up his second double-double of the season. Davis battled through a rough shooting night to notch 14 points and Lomax gave Memphis 14 of his own.
Memphis native Matthew Murrell led the Rebels with 13 points.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
Alex Lomax on fire in the first half
The Tigers’ fifth-year senior guard has been on the receiving end of quite a share of slings and arrows this season.
In the first half Saturday, though, Lomax was Memphis’ unrivaled catalyst almost from the jump. He put the Tigers on the board with a jumper from the elbow less than a minute into the game. When Memphis went on a run, pushing the lead from 6-2 to 15-5, Lomax contributed four points to the cause.
The signature moment of the first half, though, came courtesy of Lomax. With under nine minutes left before halftime, he extended the Tigers’ lead to 25-8 on a turnaround jumper. Twenty-four seconds later, after one of Lomax’s three first-half steals, his layup forced a reeling Ole Miss to call a timeout.
Rebels ice cold in the first half
Ole Miss, through its first seven games this season, wasn’t shooting the cover off the ball.
But it’s difficult to imagine coach Kermit Davis – or, really, anyone – would have predicted the Rebels would struggle so mightily on offense. Ole Miss, which came into the game ranked 58th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 120th in effective field goal percentage, got its first field goal on a second-chance dunk that tied the game 2-2.
From there, the Rebels went more than 11 minutes with just one made basket (a Matthew Murrell jumper). During one particularly barren stretch, the Memphis defense held the visitors to zero field goals on 11 attempts. Ole Miss made each of its next four shots before finishing the first half 2-of-11.
DeAndre Williams’ big performance
Ole Miss, trailing 36-22 at intermission, came back from the break in rhythm, narrowing the deficit to 10 points.
After Davis bumped the lead back up to a dozen, Williams asserted his himself. He made three straight buckets for Memphis, outscoring the Rebels 6-3 in the process.
While Williams piled up the points and rebounds, he also made some key plays in other areas. His seven assists are the most for him since collecting 10 in February 2021 against Cincinnati. Williams also blocked three shots, tying his career-best.
Tigers’ supporting cast
While the Tigers’ trio of fifth-year seniors took center stage Saturday, the group had a strong supporting cast that put filled in where there were gaps.
Chandler Lawson gave Memphis nine points and six rebounds in 21-plus minutes. Malcolm Dandridge, playing through significant knee pain, according to Hardaway, finished with six points and a pair of rebounds.
Damaria Franklin update
Damaria Franklin’s time in eligibility purgatory isn’t over.
But it might be soon, according to Memphis coach Penny Hardaway. Franklin, a 6-foot-3 guard who transferred from Illinois-Chicago in September, has not yet played for the Tigers this season because he is a two-time transfer.
The school submitted a mental health waiver to the NCAA on Franklin’s behalf last month. During a radio interview before Saturday’s game, Hardaway told Dave Woloshin the matter recently cleared another hurdle. The NCAA had been awaiting a response from UIC officials before moving forward. Hardaway told Woloshin the NCAA received no objection from UIC with regard to Franklin’s mental health waiver request.
“UIC is saying they’re going to support the waiver and now it’s on the NCAA to make the decision,” Hardaway said. “With what we’ve learned this week, we’re hoping the NCAA makes the call in time for (Tuesday’s game against) Little Rock.”
The Tigers return to action against Little Rock on Tuesday (7 p.m.) before facing No. 15 Auburn in Atlanta on Dec. 10 (4 p.m.).
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @munzly.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis basketball: DeAndre Williams powers Tigers to win over Ole Miss