The Commercial Appeal

Memphis hits road to face rising Wichita St.

- Jason Munz

Things don’t slow down much for Memphis basketball, which is fresh off a loss in a short-handed showdown with No. 1 Houston.

A road date Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2) with one of the hotter teams in the AAC awaits. OK, that may be stretching things a tad. Wichita State (14-12, 7-7 AAC) has won its last two games and three of its last four. Only Houston (seven) and Tulane (five) have longer active winning streaks than the Shockers.

But the Tigers (20-7, 10-4) have won eight of their last 10 and their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes are largely dependent upon avoiding losses to teams like Wichita State. Memphis won the first meeting between these two teams, 88-78, at Fedexforum on Jan. 19.

Here are three things to keep an eye on ahead of Thursday’s matchup:

Kendric Davis: Will he or won’t he?

Memphis’ superstar point guard has lived up to every bit of his billing. In 26 games, Kendric Davis was one of the driving forces in getting the Tigers to a 20-6 record.

Then, during last week’s win over UCF, his right ankle tilted just a bit too far as he drove toward the basket late in the first half. He sat out the rest of that game and, despite limited participat­ion in pregame warmups, was held out of the Houston contest.

Davis has had trouble with his right ankle at times. He briefly left multiple games early on this season. He exited the loss at Alabama in the final minutes. He spent more than five minutes on the bench in the first half at Cincinnati after landing on a defender’s foot.

As Davis sat last week, the Tigers ushered seniors Alex Lomax and Malcolm Dandridge back onto the floor. Lomax missed nine games with a groin injury, while Dandridge was sidelined for more than two months with an injured ankle.

Coach Penny Hardaway wasn’t

tipping his hand just yet when asked about Davis’ pending availabili­ty on Sunday. “We just gotta get Malcolm back into shape and then see how much more longer Kendric’s gonna be out,” he said. “I don’t think he’s as bad as he was. Will that be Thursday at Wichita? I don’t know. It might be the next game against Cincinnati.”

Damaria Franklin trending upward

Maybe all Damaria Franklin needed was a little more confidence.

Following his game-winning basket last week versus UCF, the senior guard admitted he felt it, both in the moment and afterward. He felt a swell of confidence after forcing the steal that led to his layup by projected first-round NBA Draft pick Taylor Hendricks with 7 seconds left on the clock.

That feeling carried over into the contest at Houston, where Franklin had possibly his best game as a Tiger. Franklin put up 10 points (a season-high) and gathered five rebounds (two off a season-high and more than he’s had in a game since Jan. 11). He was 4 for 5 from the field (2 for 2 from the 3-point line) and finished with one assist, one block and one steal in 23 minutes.

Wichita State scouting report

Part of the reason behind the Shockers’

improved play of late has been the emergence of Jaykwon Walton. The 6foot-7 former Team Thad guard leads the team with 14.4 points per game. After an up-and-down start to his first season at Wichita State, Walton found some consistenc­y once conference play began.

He put up 15 points in the first meeting with Memphis. He has scored in double figures in every game since then, and he has only scored fewer than 15 points twice during that eightgame span.

While the Shockers (who average 70 points per game, while the Tigers are scoring 79.9 per game) have shown signs of progress, they owe some of that to the level of competitio­n.

Only one of their seven AAC wins has come against a team with a winning overall record (Temple, 15-13, last week).

Wichita State also has exhibited some quirky trends this season. The Shockers are a better road team (7-4) than they are at Koch Arena (7-6). Isaac Brown’s team is also 1-6 in midweek games, picking up their first nonweekend win of the season last week (again, over Temple).

Memphis vs. Wichita State score prediction

Memphis 80, Wichita State 70: Call this one the “law of averages” game.

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercial­ or on Twitter @munzly.

 ?? PETRE THOMAS/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Memphis guard Damaria Franklin shoots as Temple forward Kur Jongkuch defends during the first half at Fedexforum on Feb. 12.
PETRE THOMAS/USA TODAY SPORTS Memphis guard Damaria Franklin shoots as Temple forward Kur Jongkuch defends during the first half at Fedexforum on Feb. 12.

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