The recipe for beating the Tigers this season was never complicated. Bottle up Elliot Williams and the Tigers' offense was minus its sharpest claws. The Houston Cougars figured it out, holding the Tigers' top scorer to 3-for-18 shooting in two late-season upsets. And tonight at the Tad Pad in Oxford, the Ole Miss Rebels pulled the same trick. Williams had exactly one field goal in the game's first 35 minutes. Despite another stellar game from Will Coleman (15 points and 14 rebounds), Memphis didn't have enough to keep pace with Terrico White, Chris Warren and friends. The Rebels' 90-81 win means they'll host a third-round game against the winner of Texas Tech and Jacksonville.
The Tigers pulled within three (50-47) after an 8-0 run eight minutes into the second half. (The run was aided by an overlooked shot-clock violation that resulted in a three-point play by Wesley Witherspoon.) But a combination of long-distance marksmanship from White (21 points) and Zach Graham (19) and a pair of alley-oop dunks within a minute of play (by White and Murphy Holloway) extended the Ole Miss lead to 64-51 with seven minutes to play. A pair of late treys by Williams and Doneal Mack closed the deficit to eight points, but Memphis was forced to foul over the last two minutes of the game. Six of the seven Tigers who played had at least three fouls. Witherspoon fouled out with 13 points. Angel Garcia led Memphis with 17.
Josh Pastner's first season at the helm ends with a record of 24-10. The only Tiger coaches to have a more successful debut season are Larry Finch (26 wins in 1986-87) and Eugene Lambert (25 in 1951-52). Seniors Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack finished their Tiger careers with 128 wins, second only to the class that preceded them.