Memphis native Alex Lomax overcame an ankle injury in the first half to help coach Benny Hardaway lead the Tigers to their first NCAA championship win since 2014.
Lomax, a 6-foot-tall goalkeeper, injured his left ankle when he awkwardly fell on him after making a 3D pointer in the first half, causing him to scream in pain. But he came back to finish the game with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists as the Boise State’s No. 9 Tigers tackled No. 8, 64-53, in Portland, Oregon. Ranked #1 overall, and #16 Georgia state in the Western Region.
“Man, I’m feeling great right now,” Lomax said in a TV interview. “I’m so emotional, it’s been eight years since we’ve been able to get to the championship, and just being from Memphis and being able to take our first win and being a part of that, I can’t do anything but feel good right now.”
After finishing 12th in the first division before the start of the season, Memphis started 9-8 amid viral setbacks and mixed play. After losing to Southern Methodist at a conference game in January, Hardaway made national news when members of the media were bombarded with insults after the match. Around the same time, esteemed student Emoni Bates briefly left the team to receive treatment for back pain at home in Michigan. Without him in the rotation, Memphis played much better, winning 13 of their last 15 games.
At 6-foot-9, once compared to young Kevin Durant, Bates returned Thursday for the first time since January 27. He made his only attempt, 3 pointers, and finished with 3 points, no passes and no rebounds in three minutes.
Deandre Williams led the Memphis team with 14 points and 5 rebounds, Landers Noli scored 12 points and 5 rebounds, and the new great player Galen Doreen contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds, scoring a big goal to steal from Lomax to make the score 60-53. The Oregon transfer kept Boise State, Mountain West Conference regular, and championship champ, close in the second half, with a game-best 20 points lead.
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