Lomax, a 6-foot senior guard, injured his left ankle when he landed on it awkwardly after making a 3-pointer in the first half, leaving him screaming in pain. But he returned to finish with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists as the No. 9 Tigers fended off No. 8 Boise State, 64-53, in Portland, Ore. The Tigers will next face the winner of Thursday’s game between Gonzaga, the No. 1 overall seed, and No. 16 Georgia State in the West region.
“Man, I’m feeling very great right now,” Lomax said in a television interview. “I’m very emotional, it’s been eight years since we were able to get to the tournament, and just being from Memphis and able to get our first win and being a part of that, I can’t do nothing but feel good right now. ”
After being ranked No. 12 in Division I in the preseason, Memphis started 9-8 amid viral setbacks and mixed play. After a loss to Southern Methodist in a conference game in January, Hardaway made national news when he bombarded members of the media with expletives after the game. Around that same time, the highly regarded freshman 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 down the stretch, winning 13 of its last 15 games.
The 6-foot-9 Bates, once compared to a young Kevin Durant, returned on Thursday for the first time since Jan. 27. He made his sole attempt, a 3-pointer, and finished with 3 points, no assists and no rebounds in three minutes.
DeAndre Williams led Memphis with 14 points and 5 rebounds, Landers Nolley had 12 points and 5 rebounds, and the freshman big man Jalen Duren contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds, scoring a huge layup off a steal by Lomax to make it 60-53. The Oregon transfer Abu Kigab kept Boise State, the Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament champions, close in the second half, finishing with a game-best 20 points.
“It means the world to me,” Lomax said when asked what it felt like to win a tournament game for Memphis. “I honestly didn’t expect to be here, and now I’m here and I’m doing something special.”