Everything came together for Tari Eason on Friday.
With Eason's mom, Teroya, among the 1,135 in attendance at Fifth Third Arena, the 6-foot-8 University of Cincinnati freshman had career highs in points (20), rebounds (13) and field goals made (eight) as the Bearcats cruised to a 91-71 win over Tulane.
Teroya's presence was a surprise for Eason.
The former four-star recruit out of Seattle also had three blocks and made his only 3-point attempt of the afternoon as his younger brother, Tega, also watched from the stands.
"I felt like he was just playing free," teammate Jeremiah Davenport said. "He was playing big-time free. That's all I can say, for real, because he's capable of doing that. We know he's capable of doing that. People outside may not know that, but we know that. I feel like tonight he just played with a free mind, and 20 piece."
Davenport scored a career-high 27 points to pair with Eason's career day and the two led Cincinnati (9-8, 7-5 AAC) to the regular-season sweep of the Green Wave (9-11, 4-11) and the team's sixth win in seven games.
"We were all connected," Davenport said. "We won by 20, so I felt like it was more of a heavy connection this game, and that's scary. That's scary moving forward."
The Bearcats will look to keep the momentum going Sunday against Memphis (13-6, 9-3), which is 1-0 since returning from an 18-day pause due to COVID-19 protocols. The Tigers defeated Tulane 61-46 on Wednesday.
Tipoff: 1 p.m. on Sunday at Fifth Third Arena
TV/Radio: ESPN/WLW-AM (700)
Series info: This is the 82nd meeting between Memphis and Cincinnati, with UC owning a 47-34 advantage in the series. The Bearcats are 8-2 in the last 10 matchups. Cincinnati split its two games against the Tigers last season, defeating Memphis 92-86 in overtime on Feb. 13, 2020, at home, and losing 60-49 on Jan. 16, 2020, inside Memphis' FedExForum. The teams' scheduled game on Feb. 11 at Memphis was postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases within the Tigers' program.
Memphis (13-6, 9-3 AAC)
Coach: Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, third season (56-30)
Offense: 72.1 ppg
Defense: 62 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Boogie Ellis (G, 6’3", 8.6 ppg)
Lester Quinones (G, 6'5", 9.2 ppg)
Landers Nolley II (G, 6'7", 13.4 ppg)
DeAndre Williams (F, 6’9", 10.4 ppg)
Moussa Cisse (C, 6’10", 2.0 bpg, first in AAC)
Cincinnati (9-8, 7-5 AAC)
Coach: John Brannen, second season (29-18)
Offense: 69.2 ppg
Defense: 71.2 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Mike Saunders Jr. (G, 6’, 81% FT shooting)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6'3", 86% FT shooting)
Keith Williams (G, 6’5”, 14.4 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7", 11.1 ppg)
Chris Vogt (C, 7'1', 1.1 bpg, fifth in AAC)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The 6-foot junior guard's 1.9 steals per game lead the AAC, while his 4.4 assists per game rank third in the conference. Lomax and 6-foot-10 center Moussa Cisse are key reasons why Memphis has the second-ranked scoring defense in the American (62 points per game). Houston is No. 1 (58 ppg).
The former Moeller High School standout's offensive explosion on Friday also came with five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Davenport, who shot 10-for-16 from the field, including 4-for-6 form 3-point range, is maturing from a mere role player to perhaps the most valuable player in John Brannen's limited rotation.
"He's seeing the game better, he's playing under control more and that allows his talents to come out," Brannen said. "Now, the biggest thing, he's all in, man. He's got Cincinnati on his chest. He is all in, and when you're all in, it only leaves an opportunity for you to be the best version of yourself."
KEY TO THE GAME
Take care of the ball
Lomax is a genius at finding gaps in opposing offenses, breaking into passing lanes, stealing the basketball and creating extra possessions. He can single-handedly change the game. David DeJulius' 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio is second-best in the AAC. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the junior point guard opted out on Thursday. Sophomore Mika Adams-Woods, who had a team-high seven assists against only two turnovers on Friday, and freshman Mike Saunders Jr. will need to take care of the ball in DeJulius' absence.
KenPom.com: Memphis (47); Cincinnati (98)
RPI: Memphis (90); Cincinnati (109)