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Penny Hardaway got a little hot under the collar after his Memphis basketball team’s third straight loss Thursday.
Following the 70-62 defeat at the hands of SMU, the Tigers’ fourth-year coach was already in a foul mood. Memphis (9-8, 3-4 AAC) has lost eight of its last 12 games and slid down both the AAC standings and the NCAA’s NET rankings.
“One of the worst games of the year,” Hardaway said to open the postgame press conference. “I’ve got to stay at the drawing board. Man, just keep fighting. That’s all I can do. That’s all I know.”
Things went from bad to worse when one of the media members on hand asked the native Memphian whether he has ever lost faith in his ability to get the job done at his alma mater.
“I think the one thing I can say to this media, because this media gets kind of (expletive) up sometimes when it comes to me, (is) we don’t have our full roster,” he began. “Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. So, stop asking me stupid, (expletive) questions about if I feel like I can do something.”
Penny Hardaway's answer to if he can get the job done at Memphis.
"Stop asking me stupid f***ing questions about if I feel like I can do something. If I had my roster like they did, then I feel like I can do whatever I want to do." pic.twitter.com/WA79u6Y7bc
— Cassie Carlson (@CassieCarlsonTV) January 21, 2022
The Tigers have been ravaged by injuries the past two months. The team has not had everyone on its roster healthy since Nov. 24. Memphis’ leading scorer (DeAndre Williams) and its top assist man (Landers Nolley II) have been out the last four and two games, respectively. Jayden Hardaway also missed his second straight game. Senior guard Alex Lomax returned against SMU after a five-game absence due to an ankle injury. Sophomore guard Earl Timberlake has missed two games in the last five weeks with various ailments. Freshman Emoni Bates sat out three games with a finger issue during that stretch. Fellow freshman Jalen Duren has also missed multiple games in recent weeks.
In the loss to SMU, Memphis started Bates, Duren, Josh Minott (another freshman), Timberlake (whose freshman campaign at Miami last season was limited to seven games due to injuries) and Lester Quinones. Hardaway has put walk-on freshman Tadarius Jacobs on the floor the past two games in meaningful situations.
“If I had my roster like (SMU) did, then I feel like I can do whatever I want to do,” Hardaway continued. “I’m coaching really hard. My boys are playing really hard. I’m not embarrassed about nothing. We have four freshmen starting (referring to Bates, Duren, Minott and Timberlake). Y’all need to act like it. Act like we’ve got 17- and 18- and 19-year-olds out here trying to learn how to play against 22-, 23- and 24-year-old guys.
“C’mon, man. Stop disrespecting me, bro. Like, don’t do that. I work too (expletive) hard. I work way too hard for that. Y’all write all these (expletive) articles about me and all I do is work. We’ve got young kids on the floor.”
Hardaway was subsequently asked about the mood of the team as it prepares to face Tulsa on Sunday.
“It’s down, because this is not what we expected,” he said. “I don’t like to get out of character, but I’m just kind of – we’re hurt, man. Our roster is depleted right now of guys that can definitely make a difference and help the young guys get through this. Right now, they’re having to learn on the fly. It’s hard.”
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at email@example.com or on Twitter @munzly.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Penny Hardaway goes on rant after Memphis loses to SMU