Marquis Teague waived off his coach as he dribbled up the court.
His team, the Memphis Hustle (13-20), had overcome a 16 point first quarter deficit to tie the Rio Grand Valley Vipers (19-15) 125-125 in the closing seconds.
Teague watched the clock counting down as he sized up his defender on the right wing. With three seconds remaining, the University of Kentucky product dribbled into the middle of the defense, spun back, and lofted a soft tear drop high off the glass that rattled around the rim and in as time expired. Hustle 127, Vipers 125.
“I knew when I spun back that nobody was really back on that side, so I was able to get up a nice shot” Teague said of the final play in a postgame interview. “I thought they were going to bring guys over. I was going to make a play for one of my teammates, but they left [the help defender] over there and I was able to get to the rim.”
“I was going to make the right play, whatever it was. A winning play.”
Teague scored a career high 31 points on 12-24 shooting and 5-9 shooting from distance. He also added eight assists.
“I was going to call a timeout,” head coach Glynn Cyprien explained of that final play. However, instead of overriding his point guard, he let his veteran make a play.
“Teague looked me over and waived me off and said that he had it. He’s a veteran, he’s been in the NBA, and I trust him. He’s my starting point guard, so I let him go. I would live with any shot he takes.”
Turned out Teague took a pretty good one as the second to last in the conference Hustle, snatched its 13th win of the season.
It wasn’t always a close game, though. The Hustle trailed by 16 points in the first quarter, a quarter in which former Memphis Grizzly Troy Williams went ballistic. Williams scored 14 points in the opening five minutes, drilling four threes to give the Vipers a big lead. Williams finished the game with a game-high 32 points on 7-11 from distance. Notably, he sat the final three-plus minutes of the game. He was not in foul trouble, though he did get a tech in the third period.
Other notable Hustle stat lines include 20 points and seven rebounds off the bench from former University of Memphis Tiger Trahson Burrell. Chance Comanche had the game’s only double double with 13 and 13 while Kobi Simmons and Omari Johnson scored 17 points apiece. Jeremy Morgan was the only other Hustle in double figures with 15 on 4-8 shooting from long range.
One of Rio Grande’s two-way players, R.J. Hunter had a good night in the loss. After starting 1-6 from three, the Georgia State star bounced back for 21 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. He did so in front of his father and the entire Georgia State team, for whom his father coaches. The Panthers were in the area as they have an upcoming game against Arkansas State.
Rio Grande’s other two-way guy, Monte Morris, hit the 20-point threshold as well, scoring exactly that many while adding six rebounds and eight assists. And 7’1 Chinese center Zhou Qi found action off the bench, electrifying his teammates with some hustle plays and dunks in a 15 point, six rebound performance.
After the first quarter, the Vipers led by seven, 40-33. In addition to Williams’ 14 point outburst, the Vipers significantly out rebounded and outpassed the Hustle, allowing the visitors to grab that aforementioned 16 point lead.
“They came out on fire,” Cyprien said postgame. “We gave up 40 points in the first quarter, and I used my timeouts early. In fact, I went to the board and I said, ‘They’re going to score 200 at the rate they’re going tonight!’”
The Hustle found a way back into it behind Teague’s 11 and Burrell’s seven in the period. Morris added eight and three dimes for the Vipers.
Half of Morris’ points came from the free throw line, a place Rio Grande went frequently at the beginning of the game. The Hustle were over the limit four and a half minutes into the game. RGV shot 10-12 in the quarter from the charity stripe.
The Hustle held a three point advantage at the break, 65-62. Teague paced the Hustle with 16 on 4-6 from deep, but he was helped by Burrell who tacked on 15 on 3-4 from deep off the bench. Williams lead all scorers with 20 and also lead in rebounds with five. Qi chipped in 11 on 4-6 shooting from the field, including a spattering of tip-dunks; regular dunks; and one crazy, off-the dribble and-one finish against three defenders.
The Hustle were helped in their comeback effort by the Vipers, who shot 14 percent from distance (2-14) in the second period. Hunter in particular struggled, shooting just 1-6 from downtown.
Rio Grande reclaimed the lead in a potent third quarter. The Vipers scored nearly 40 points, a mark which they also hit in the first quarter. Hunter started to come alive, finishing the period in triple double territory. He had 13 points, six rebounds, and seven assists by period’s end. He complemented 27 from Williams on 6-9 shooting from three point land, as well as 18 points and seven assists from Morris and 13 points from Qi off the pine.
The Hustle got a big hand from Johnson, who scored 11 points in the quarter. Morgan also hit a couple corner threes to get into double figures with 10 by period’s end.
The Hustle's next game will be tonight in Texas against the conference leading Austin Spurs (21-12).