HARTFORD, Conn. – When Memphis faces the Owls Friday in a quarterfinal matchup in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, it’ll likely do so without its top scorer.
Sophomore forward Austin Nichols re-injured his ankle in the Tigers’ 74-72 overtime loss to Tulsa on Feb. 28, and hasn’t played since. Reports last week said Nichols, who averages 13.3 points per game, will likely sit out for the duration of the Connecticut-hosted tournament, which will take place in downtown Hartford at the XL Center.
Nichols initially injured the ankle in Memphis’ 61-60 home defeat to the Owls (22-9, 13-5 The American), in which junior guard Josh Brown hit a game-winning jump shot with 2.4 seconds left to play.
Senior forward Calvin Godfrey has averaged 11 points in his last two games starting in Nichols’ spot on the frontcourt alongside junior Shaq Goodwin. Without Nichols, Goodwin will enter Friday’s contest as the leading scorer for the Tigers (18-13, 10-8 The American) with his 9.5 ppg.
Senior guards Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan are coming off games in which they netted point totals of 23 and 17, respectively, in the Owls’ 75-63 defeat of Connecticut in their regular-season finale March 7 at the Liacouras Center. Cummings, who earned first-team all-conference honors for his regular-season efforts, paces Temple with 14.1 ppg, along with 4.3 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game. After re-joining the starting lineup Jan. 22 against South Florida after suffering a muscle strain in his lower left leg earlier in the month, Cummings hasn’t scored less than 12 points in any of Temple’s contests since.
Morgan, meanwhile, enjoyed his highest point total in a game Saturday since he netted 19 points in the Owls’ defeat of USF on Jan. 22. He sank 5 of 7 3-pointers in the victory, including two in the game’s final eight minutes.
With the absence of Nichols, junior Jaylen Bond, the conference’s leading rebounder with 8.3 boards per game, could benefit from a favorable matchup Friday alongside a combination of Temple forwards Devontae Watson and Obi Enechionyia.
Temple last won a conference tournament in the 2010-11 season as a member of the Atlantic 10. In The American’s inaugural tournament at Memphis last year, the Owls dropped a 94-90 contest to South Florida in double overtime.
The Tigers entered a conference quarterfinal matchup against Connecticut last season as the favorites and the No. 19-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but were topped, 72-53, by the Huskies en route to UConn’s national-title-winning run.
The two teams will tip off at 2 p.m., and will be shown on ESPN2. The winner will play Saturday at 3 p.m. against the victor of a quarterfinal between East Carolina and Southern Methodist, which will take place Friday at noon.