The 2010-11 Memphis Tigers are a team that will be remembered for its freshmen. Three of the four upperclassmen who entered the season in coach Josh Pastner’s rotation — Will Coleman, Wesley Witherspoon, and Angel Garcia — all came up short of expectations, for various reasons. (Those shortcomings are the primary reason this team is on the bubble for an NCAA tournament bid.) With two regular-season games left to play (Wednesday at East Carolina and Saturday at home against Tulane), the Tigers are aiming for a top-four seed — and first-round bye — in the Conference USA tournament.
Just what kind of impact have the five Tiger frosh made? Here’s a look at each player’s performance over 29 games, complete with a grade . . . one that could be boosted by a postseason run.
ANTONIO BARTON — Considered by many a recruiting throw-in, Will’s younger brother has been a surprising difference-maker, particularly in back-to-back road wins over Gonzaga and UCF. If you’re looking for the biggest shot of the season, it was either Charles Carmouche’s game-winning trey at Southern Miss or Antonio’s game-winning triple at UCF. (Imagine the Tigers’ tournament prospects had either of those shots not fallen.) He opened eyes early, leading the Tigers with 17 points in their season-opening victory over Centenary, and has twice been named Freshman of the Week. Antonio has had to establish a role not only in the shadow of his more highly-acclaimed brother, but also in that of fellow freshman point guard, Joe Jackson, a player to whom thousands of Memphians would like to hand the position for as long as Jackson is enrolled at the U of M. To the younger Barton’s credit, he’s making the decision hard for Pastner. Grade: B+
WILL BARTON — He can be a college basketball star, but he’s not there yet. Barton’s length and playmaking ability on the run call to mind Penny Hardaway at times, but Will has forced too many shots and committed too many offensive fouls to fit the “next Penny” tag. He has been the most exciting Tiger to watch this season, scoring from three-point range or via off-balance leaners in the paint. He’s been a better rebounder than expected (second on the team behind Tarik Black) and not exactly a liability on the defensive end. An intangible in Barton’s favor is his confidence. Between the ears, he’s already a star. With another year (or two?) of seasoning, the rest of his body will follow. Grade: B
TARIK BLACK — Not since the days of Chris Massie (and before him, Kelly Wise), have the Tigers had a go-to presence in the pivot. Black’s offensive skills are already superior to those of Joey Dorsey as a senior. Soft hands, a touch around the rim, a better-than-average jump-hook. When (or if) Black develops mastery for positioning himself before receiving the ball, he could be among the best Tiger big men in a generation. He’s already a shot-blocking menace, having enjoyed a stretch of seven games in which he blocked at least four shots in five of them. (Through Sunday, Black has 52 blocked shots for the season. Dorsey had 43 as a freshman.) Most impressive, perhaps, is Black being named a captain (along with Coleman, a senior). Leadership can’t be assigned, but it’s easily recognized. Grade: A-
CHRIS CRAWFORD — “Confounding” would be a nice, alliterative word to describe this shooting guard’s first college season. Expected to be among the Tigers’ top shooters, Crawford opened the season by hitting all six of his shots (including four three-pointers) against Centenary. He drained eight treys (in 15 attempts) over two games in December. But then Crawford had a six-game stretch in which he hit two of 18 three-point attempts. And a nine-game stretch in which he hit four of 34. An adept ball-handler and terrific passer, Crawford received some of the season’s toughest defensive assignments (i.e. Tulsa’s Justin Hurtt) and held his own. The tease here is the number of areas Crawford might impact when he regains his scoring touch. Grade: C+
JOE JACKSON — You can see the pressure on Jackson’s face. A homegrown superstar who set scoring records at White Station High School, Jackson in many respects personifies this Tiger season. Watch Jackson dribble through traffic (around much bigger players) and you see the talent that made him a McDonald’s All-America. But watch him bounce a pass off an opponent’s knee and you see how steep the learning curve can be for college basketball players, regardless of their prep credentials. While Pastner stirred his starting lineup like a potluck stew, Jackson remained the constant. But when his struggles began to show ripple effects in the team’s playing style, Jackson was forced to the bench (he played only six minutes in the win at Gonzaga). There comes a time when elite point guards must make a team their own. It will be interesting to watch how Jackson achieves this, or if Antonio Barton gets in the way. Grade: C
In the NBA, it's known as the Texas Triangle. Twenty-seven teams dread a road trip through Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, a slump-starter that can turn the fortunes of a season.
Having lost in Dallas (to SMU), Houston (to Rice), and now El Paso, the 2010-11 Tigers have shaped their fortune with their own Texas Triangle. Dangling on the edge of consideration for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament next month, Memphis will have three losses in the Lone Star State as its primary blemish come selection Sunday.
The Tigers scored their fewest points of the season, and lost by the largest margin. (The defeat was the Tigers' most lopsided since losing by 27 to UAB on February 16, 2000. You have to go back to March 5, 1998, for an uglier loss: a 28-point drubbing by Southern Miss.) They shot 33 percent from the floor and made only one of 18 three-point attempts. The C-USA leader in turnovers, Memphis held to form with 22 miscues. Will Barton led the U of M with 10 points, the last two coming on a meaningless dunk as time expired. Memphis native Randy Culpepper led the Miners with 20 points. UTEP shot 49 percent from the floor.
The Tigers remain congested among five other teams atop the Conference USA standings. Only four will receive byes into the C-USA tournament quarterfinals. With a record now of 21-8, the Tigers' best chance for a ticket to the Big Dance may well be winning that tournament. It begins March 9th, in El Paso, (wait for it) Texas.
Memphis travels to East Carolina next Wednesday, then wraps up the regular season on March 5th at FedExForum against Tulane.
Three days after a dispiriting, 15-point loss at Rice, Josh Pastner had a message (or two) to deliver for his team. With his Tigers backed into a desperate corner (again), Pastner broadcast his first message for the entire crowd of 16,550 at FedExForum. Starting at point guard against Houston tonight was Antonio Barton, with Joe Jackson on the bench for the tipoff for the first time in his college career. Returning to the starting lineup was senior center Will Coleman, who had played all of 12 minutes combined in the Tigers’ last two games. Alongside Coleman was the Tigers’ other big man, Tarik Black, making this only the fourth time the pair has started together.
The new combination — Pastner’s 15th starting lineup in 28 games — served its purpose. The Tigers allowed a slumping Houston team to stay in the contest (ten first-half lead changes), but pulled away over the game’s final five minutes with a 12-3 run for their 21st victory of the season. The win keeps Memphis tied with four other teams in the C-USA standings, each with four league losses.
“I thought we played well,” said Pastner after the game. “Houston is better than their record. Charles [Carmouche] and Antonio [Barton] hit big three-pointers late to open up the game. I give a lot of credit to Joe Jackson. He didn’t pout, didn’t sulk. And he hit a big shot in the second half when we couldn’t score.”
Carmouche filled the stat sheet with 12 points, eight rebounds, and five assists (no turnovers) in 39 minutes of action. Tarik Black added 16 points and three blocks, and Wesley Witherspoon had his most productive game in almost two months: 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.
“There aren’t any second chances at this point,” said Carmouche after the game. “We gotta win out, and pretend like every game is our last. We just have to keep looking forward, and build on this win. When it came down to it, we hit some big shots and pulled it out.”
Consider another message of Pastner’s delivered to freshman Will Barton, who entered the game as the Tigers’ top scorer (13.2 points per game) and busiest player (31.1 minutes per game). The older Barton brother played six minutes tonight and did not score.
“I love Will Barton, and he’s a really good basketball player,” said Pastner. “But I just didn’t think he played well today, and he didn’t produce. When Will Barton’s locked in, he’s really good. But it’s maturity and growing. Preparation doesn’t just start when the ball’s tipped. It starts the night before. I expect him to bounce back.”
Memphis improved to 16-2 at FedExForum this season and beat a Cougar team that has now lost eight of nine games. Alandise Harris led Houston with 16 points and seven rebounds. The Tigers led 44-38 at halftime and never trailed in the second half, Houston never getting closer than two points (57-55).
Freshman guard Chris Crawford had what might be called a triple-cinco: five points, five rebounds, and five assists. “There’s no pressure,” said Crawford. “We just have to get out there and do what we do. We took [the Rice loss] bad, but we went right back out there at practice and got at it. We wanted to take it out on the next team we played. Everybody had a lot more energy.”
The Tigers travel to El Paso to face UTEP Saturday. They’ll be looking for their first win in Texas after losses at SMU and Rice.
NOTES: Antonio Barton collapsed in the Tiger huddle during the final timeout of the game and was taken to a local hospital. Pastner said the initial diagnosis was severe dehydration. Barton played 33 minutes. • Before the game, the crowd was asked to stand and observe a moment of silence in honor of Forest Arnold, who died at his Missouri home on Saturday. The first All-America at Memphis, Arnold played for the Tigers from 1952 to 1956. His number 13 is one of eight jerseys to be retired by the Memphis program.
Josh Pastner loves to describe how hard winning is. And how no game is a gimme in an improved Conference USA. It's time Tiger fans start listening.
Any chance the Tigers had at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament likely died tonight in Houston. In losing to one of C-USA's bottom-feeders, Memphis falls to 8-4 in league play (20-7 overall). The Tigers now have one more conference loss than UTEP, a team the Tigers will face in El Paso a week from today. (The U of M has now lost its last four games in Texas, Josh Pastner's native state.)
The Owls took an early lead, and stretched it to double figures (26-15) 13 minutes into the game. The Tigers trailed by nine at halftime, but then never mounted a serious comeback in front of a Tudor Fieldhouse crowd that was a fraction of the size they're used to seeing at FedExForum.
Tonight's game was the first loss Memphis has ever suffered at the hands of Rice (a series of now eight games). The Owls improve to 12-14 (4-8 in C-USA). Tamir Jackson led Rice with 20 points while Arsalan Kazemi added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Tigers shot dreadfully, missing 14 of 17 three-point attempts and shooting 35 percent overall. Tarik Black failed to make a field goal and fouled out after playing only 19 minutes. (Backup center Will Coleman was on the floor for four minutes and didn't score.) With 14 points, Antonio Barton was the only Tiger to reach double figures. (Will Barton entered the game having scored at least 11 in ten straight games, but shot 3 of 11 and finished with 8 points.)
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Memphis. The Tigers will host Houston at FedExForum Tuesday night. Tip-off at 8 p.m.
A season of give and take continued for the Tigers tonight at FedExForum. In a game that featured 14 lead changes, Memphis took a little more than they gave to earn its 20th win of the season and fourth straight. In improving to 8-3 in Conference USA play, the Tigers leapfrogged UAB in the league standings and — with UTEP’s loss to Southern Miss — now occupy first place by percentage points (the Miners are 7-3).
UAB went on a 16-5 tear to open the second half and take a 40-33 lead, only to see Memphis answer with a 16-4 run. Playing without junior forward Cameron Moore (15.6 points per game), the Blazers stayed in the contest behind freshman Anthony Criswell (12 points, eight rebounds), sophomore Ovie Soko (18 points), and senior point guard Aaron Johnson (12 points, 10 assists).
Freshman Will Barton led the way for the Tigers with 17 points, followed by Joe Jackson with 12 and Charles Carmouche with 10. Jackson played 20 minutes, his most in four games, and converted two free throws inside the last minute that helped preserve the win. (Memphis made 6 of 9 foul shots over the game’s last 60 seconds.)
The Tigers have now won 11 straight over UAB. Will Barton acknowledged the 20th win as an important milestone. “To get 20 wins this early in the season is big,” he said in the locker room after the game. “We’ve just got to keep it going, keep pushing. Our conference is underrated; no game is a push-over. Come tournament time, you have to be able to win tight games.” Memphis is now 13-2 in games decided by fewer than 10 points.
Junior forward Wesley Witherspoon returned to the floor after missing the previous nine games due to a suspension and knee soreness. He hit all three of his field-goal attempts in 15 minutes of action. “When I found out he was playing,” said Chris Crawford, “I was probably the most excited, because I missed him. He brings a lot of energy. He’s a veteran, so we look up to him.”
The Tigers held UAB to 36 percent shooting from the field. Which is precisely what coach Josh Pastner considers the difference in this team’s fortunes. “The bottom line is difference,” he said. “We lead the league in field-goal-percentage defense. You’ve got to hang your hat on defense. We let guys have some freedom on offense, but you have to be able to defend.”
Memphis plays three of its next four games on the road, including what could be a battle for first place at UTEP on February 26th. “Every game is important,” emphasized Pastner. “A lot of people didn’t think we’d get 20 wins when we had our backs against the wall, twice. But this game’s done with. Tomorrow, we have to get back to work. Rice is a good team. We’re going to have to come out with an unbelievable fire and passion.”
Senior center Will Coleman only played eight minutes (and didn’t score a point or grab a rebound). Pastner said it was simply a matter of playing style tonight, the flow of the game dictating his substitution pattern. Coleman left the locker room before the media was allowed to enter. Freshman center Tarik Black was held to seven points (on 2 of 8 shooting) and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Nonetheless, the Tigers outscored UAB 30-26 on points in the paint.
The Tigers’ next home game will be Tuesday against Houston, with tip-off set for 8 p.m.
Josh Pastner chuckles when he refers to his basketball team as “the cardiac kids.” But then he describes fans that insist he stop joking about chest pains and heart attacks after the latest narrow Tiger win. Deep breath, Coach.
Having trailed most of the game tonight against a Southern Miss team that entered FedExForum riding a four-game winning streak, the Tigers pulled out another nail-biter, finally separating themselves with a 10-3 run over the game’s final three minutes. Will Barton scored on an inside move with just under a minute to play to give Memphis a 63-58 lead. After a three-pointer by the Golden Eagles’ Angelo Johnson closed the lead to two, Pastner called a timeout with 35 seconds to play. The ball again found Barton who isolated himself for drive to the basket and converted an up-and-under shot to seal the victory.
“The play actually wasn’t designed for me,” said Barton after the game. “I waved Chris [Crawford] off, because they had a bigger guy on me I didn’t think could guard me. I wanted to get to the rim, make a basket or get an assist. With the game on the line, I’m not going to let someone else have the ball. I envision it, and it’s a reaction. My focus is getting to the rim, if not on my first move, then on a secondary move.”
The Golden Eagles raced out to a 12-point lead midway through the first half, led by six at halftime, and remained in front until Tiger junior Charles Carmouche buried a three-pointer to tie the score at 51 with 8:45 to play. D.J. Stephens hit a jump-hook and dunked an alley-oop pass around a three-pointer from Southern Miss star Gary Flowers to make the score 57-54 with five minutes to play. But Flowers fouled out ten seconds later, having been limited to 19 minutes and 14 points (six below his average).
Tiger center Tarik Black managed to stay out of foul trouble in the first half, despite guarding Flowers (along with a few teammates). He ended up playing a season-high 35 minutes, scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and blocked four shots. “We want to get on our own winning streak,” said Black after his team’s third consecutive victory. “This was one road block, and we had to knock it down.”
Freshman guard Chris Crawford played a stellar game for the home team, with nine points, seven rebounds, five assists, and a pair of free throws for the final points of the contest. Will Barton joined Black in double figures with 16 points, including those two critical field goals in the game’s closing minutes.
“This was a good win,” emphasized Pastner. “That’s an NCAA tournament team. They don’t get enough credit for going to Cal and winning. I’ve been in the Pac 10, so I know how hard that is. They’ve got a pro [Flowers] and a case could be made for Larry Eustachy as [C-USA] Coach of the Year. We stopped the three, and we came up with some big rebounds late.”
The win improves the Tigers’ record to 12-2 in games decided by fewer than 10 points. Better, the win moves Memphis ahead of Southern Miss (now 7-4 in league play) in the C-USA standings. “I’ve never been around a bad win,” said Pastner when asked if beating a potential NCAA-tournament team is especially rewarding. “Win by one or win by 88, it doesn’t matter. Winning’s fun, and losing stinks.”
Now 19-6 (7-3 in C-USA), the Tigers will host UAB Wednesday night at FedExForum. Tip-off at 6 pm.
September 3 — MISSISSIPPI STATE
September 10 — at Arkansas State
September 17 — AUSTIN PEAY
September 24 — SMU
October 1 — at Middle Tennessee
October 8 — at Rice
October 15 — EAST CAROLINA
October 22 — at Tulane
October 29 — at UCF
November 12 — UAB
November 19 — MARSHALL
November 26 — at Southern Miss
Hall of Famer Jerry West would cringe if Tiger freshman Antonio Barton were to adopt the nickname "Mr. Clutch," but based on Barton's last two games, perhaps borrowing the moniker would be palatable.
The younger of Memphis' Barton brothers took a pass from his older brother Will and drained a three-pointer from the right side with three seconds left tonight in Orlando to give the Tigers their second straight road win. After hitting what proved to be the game-winner against Gonzaga last Saturday, Antonio can add tonight's heroics to his first-year highlight reel. The Tigers improve to 18-6 and 6-3 in Conference USA. The tough-luck Knights have now dropped eight consecutive games (two of them to Memphis) after winning their first 14 of the season.
Memphis led by eight in the first half and trailed by seven midway through the second half in a game that swung with the three-point shooting of each team. Isaac Sosa hit four treys for UCF and led the Knights with 14 points. Antonio Barton also drained four from long-distance and finished with 14 points, one less than his brother. Tarik Black added 11 points and five blocked shots for Memphis. Will Barton also had seven rebounds and five assists.
The Tigers finished a stretch in which five of seven games were on the road (Memphis won four of them). They return to FedExForum Saturday for a showdown with Southern Miss (tip-off is at 5 pm). Memphis beat the Golden Eagles, 76-75, on January 19th.
It’s been fun this season to watch three freshmen raised in Memphis make an immediate impact on the Tiger basketball team. Point guard Joe Jackson (White Station High School) is the only player to start all 23 games and leads the team in assists. Center Tarik Black (Ridgeway) leads the team in rebounds and blocks and was named a co-captain (with senior Will Coleman) last month. Despite a dreadful shooting slump of late, guard Chris Crawford (Sheffield) leads the team in three-point field goals and has proven himself the best passer on the team. Sophomore Drew Barham, a graduate of Christian Brothers High School, adds even more local flavor to the squad, having started during the Tigers’ four-game winning streak last month. (Barham had five points, seven rebounds, and five assists in the win over UCF on January 26th.)
Should the group stay in school two or three years, it could go down as one of the finest home-grown units ever to suit up for the U of M. Which had me thinking about other Memphians to play as teammates for the Tigers. Here are a few that stand out:
1994-95 and 1995-96 — Lorenzen Wright, Cedric Henderson, Chris Garner
Wright’s freshman season was a memorable one, as the Tigers went undefeated (17-0) at The Pyramid, won 24 games, and lost (controversially) to defending national-champion Arkansas in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Wright led the team in both scoring (14.8) and rebounding (10.2), a feat he would repeat as a sophomore (17.4 and 10.4), earning first-team all-conference honors both seasons. Garner led Memphis in assists all four seasons he played and is second only to Andre Turner in career dimes (639). Henderson was merely one of the most consistent scorers in Tiger history, averaging at least 12.6 points per game each of his four seasons. He currently ranks sixth in career scoring (1,697). This trio helped the Tigers reach number 3 in the country in 1995-96, but were upset by Drexel in the first round of the NCAAs.
1990-91 — Elliot Perry, Ernest Smith, Billy Smith
Perry’s senior season didn’t turn out the way he would have liked. The Tigers struggled on the road (4-9) and were relegated to the NIT with a final regular-season record of 16-14. (Making matters worse, Memphis lost to Arkansas State — by a single point, at home — in the second round.) The Tigers beat Tennessee, though, and beat Louisville twice before losing to the Cardinals in the Metro Conference tournament. Perry averaged 20.8 points per game and joined Keith Lee as the only Tigers in history to score 2,000 career points. The Smith boys were contributors, too, with junior Ernest averaging 8.2 points per game and sophomore Billy 5.1.
The Smiths would be joined in 1991-92 by another Memphian — guy by the name of Anfernee Hardaway — and reach the regional finals of the NCAA tournament. While Penny was a sophomore sensation (17.4 points per game), Ernest’s role was diminished; he was the rare Tiger to see his scoring average drop each of his four seasons. Billy averaged 11.2 per game. Each of the Smiths would finish his career with more than 1,000 career points.
1984-85 and 1985-86 — Andre Turner, Baskerville Holmes, William Bedford, Vincent Askew, Dwight Boyd
No Tiger fan will ever forget coach Dana Kirk’s final two teams. Over two seasons, the teams went 59-10, reached the nation’s Top 10 (twice), won the 1985 Metro Conference tournament, and reached the ’85 Final Four. The star of the 1984-85 squad, of course, was Keith Lee. But coming from across the river in West Memphis, he represented long-distance recruiting for this era. Turner (the Little General) set a Tiger record for assists in 1984-85 (224), then proceeded to break it (262) the next season. The totals remain the top two in Memphis history. Bedford was a formidable complement to Lee in ’84-’85, averaging 12.2 points, then led the team with 17.3 the next season. Askew and Holmes were dynamic scoring options both seasons, averaging 10.9 and 14.3, respectively, in ’85-’86. Three of these Memphians — Turner, Bedford, and Askew — would gain first-team all-conference recognition, and all five are in the Tiger 1,000-point club.
1972-73 — Larry Finch, Ronnie Robinson, Bill Cook
The most fabled — and certainly most significant — team in Memphis Tiger history. Led by a pair of buddies (Finch and Robinson) from Melrose High School, coach Gene Bartow’s third Memphis team went 24-6, ending their season in the NCAA championship game against mighty Bill Walton and UCLA. Finch averaged 24.0 points per game and was named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. He and Robinson were named first team All-MVC all three seasons they played varsity basketball. Robinson is one of only five Tigers to grab 1,000 career rebounds. As merely a freshman, Cook averaged 5.4 points off the bench and was one of only five Tigers to score against UCLA. Finch and Cook are each in the top 10 on the Tiger career scoring chart.
Antonio Barton rattled home a 17-foot jumper with 35 seconds left to play Saturday afternoon in Spokane, Washington, to give the Tigers a much-needed road win and end a two-game losing streak that jeopardized the team's NCAA tournament hopes. A week after losing by 15 at Marshall, Memphis earned what may be the biggest road win in two years under coach Josh Pastner. The Tigers improved to 17-6 in beating the Bulldogs. The contest was the last in a six-year series, Memphis taking five of the six games.
The Tigers stormed out of halftime with a 15-4 run, a three-point shot by Antonio Barton giving them a 47-34 lead. But they failed to convert a field goal over the game's next 12 minutes and watched Gonzaga take the lead on a jump-hook by Robert Sacre with 3:15 to play. Charles Carmouche ended the field-goal drought by draining a trey from the right corner with 1:43 to play, a shot that tied the score at 56. Will Barton and Sacre traded a pair of free throws before Antonio Barton's game-winning bucket.
Antonio Barton led Memphis with 17 points, with his brother adding 12 and Carmouche 13. Will Barton also had six assists and seven rebounds. Steven Gray led Gonzaga with 12 points.
Memphis next travels to Orlando for a tilt with UCF on Wednesday night. The Tigers host Southern Miss on February 12th.
Losing streaks can be deadly to NCAA tournament dreams. The Tigers must deal with their first such slide of the 2010-11 season after dropping tonight’s game against the Golden Hurricane, their first loss to Tulsa since the 2001 NIT semifinals. Despite limiting Justin Hurtt — who entered the game averaging 20.5 points per game — to 11 points (all after halftime) and despite holding Tulsa to 34-percent shooting for the game, the Tigers lost their second Conference USA game at home over the last six seasons. Memphis now must head to Gonzaga for Saturday’s game with a record of 16-6 (5-3 in C-USA play) . . . and that losing streak.
“Shots just wouldn’t go down,” said Will Barton in a quiet locker room after the game. “Looks we usually hit just didn’t go down tonight. It’s tough on your psyche. I tried not to get too down, not to worry about my individual shot. But I’m so distraught right now.” Barton made only two of eight field-goal attempts and finished the contest with 11 points. With the Tigers down 62-61 and a minute left to play, Barton drove the baseline and attempted a fade-away jumper from the right side that didn’t fall. True to form for this game.
“Tulsa got 33 extra offensive possessions,” emphasized coach Josh Pastner. “They had 16 offensive rebounds and we had 17 turnovers. And the turnovers were unforced. We have to learn to value the basketball.”
The game was rocky from the early (6:00) tip-off. Tulsa shot 28 percent in the first half but only trailed 30-27. Tulsa center Steven Idlet was limited to 21 minutes by foul trouble, but still scored 17 points on 8 of 11 shooting. The Tigers’ Will Coleman and Tarik Black combined for nine fouls (Hurtt converted two go-ahead free throws after Coleman fouled out with 1:19 to play), but also contributed a total of 24 points and 19 rebounds. Coleman earned his second double-double of the season, and Black his eighth consecutive game with at least nine points. Joe Jackson led Memphis with 16 points but was also one of three Tigers with four turnovers (along with Black and Chris Crawford).
Down three with eight seconds to play, the Tigers forced what appeared to be a turnover when an inbounds pass bounced out of bounds off the knee of Tulsa’s Idlet. Officials, though, didn’t see the play clearly and went to the possession arrow, which awarded the ball to the Golden Hurricane. Antonio Barton managed to steal the inbounds pass, but missed a three-point attempt from the top of the key. Will Barton pulled down the rebound but missed another long-distance attempt from the right corner. The win for Tulsa ended a 12-game losing streak to the U of M and improved the Golden Hurricane’s record to 12-10 (5-3 in C-USA action).
The relentlessly positive Pastner wouldn’t hear of dampened spirits after the loss. “We still have a lot to play for,” he said. “No matter what, if we can go 8-0 in the second half of the league race, we’ll be 13-3 and we’ll have won the league title. We’ve put ourselves in a bit of a hole, but we’re gonna have to find a way to get out of it. In the end, you always have an opportunity in the C-USA tournament. We want to play in the NCAA’s and compete for national championships. But to do that, we have to value possession of the basketball. We emphasize it, we run for it. We’ve got to protect it.”
Senior center Will Coleman shook his head at the suggestion of a losing streak taking hold of his team. “We had a slight mishap,” he said, a bright, white Tiger cap atop his head. “This is no downward spiral. We’re going to be fine. I have faith in my guys.”
• The great Jack Eaton was saluted before the game, as he will soon enter the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. “Big Jack” was the longtime voice of the Tigers, from 1959 to 1987.
• Junior guard Charles Carmouche missed the game with a knee injury suffered in a collision with Will Barton during practice Monday.
• The controversial call on the inbounds play near the game’s end is not a “correctible error,” and no video replay was considered to confirm the officials’ call. Thus the possession arrow.
LaMarvin Ashley ATH 5-10 165 McComb, MS (McComb HS)
Reggis Ball LB 5-11 200 Stone Mountain, GA (Stephenson HS)
Ryan Byrd ATH 6-0 170 Greensburg, LA (St. Helena HS)
Nick Chartain* OL 6-5 320 New Orleans (Desire Street Academy/Independence CC)
Michael Davis LB 6-2 215 Columbus, GA (Carver HS)
Jordan Devey* OL 6-6 320 American Fork, UT (American Fork HS/Snow College)
Taylor Fallin OT 6-6 320 Bowie, MD (Bowie HS/Hargrave Military)
Zach Gholson* DL 6-3 250 Carlsbad, CA (La Costa Canyon HS/Palomar College)
Artaves Gibson RB 6-1 220 Memphis (Mitchell HS)
Monte Golden C/OL 6-2 301 Jacksonville, NC (Northside HS)
Kevin Green LB 6-1 205 Memphis (Wooddale HS)
Carl Harris RB 5-10 190 Dallas (Woodrow Wilson HS)
Charles Harris LB 6-2 215 Memphis (Whitehaven HS)
Domonique Harris QB 6-5 225 Southaven, MS (Southaven HS)
Bakari Hollier DB 5-9 195 Lafayette, LA (Acadiana HS)
Derek Howard WR 6-2 190 Boutte, LA (Hahnville HS)
Ricky Hunter DT 6-4 280 Loachapoka, AL (Loachapoka HS)
Jermaine Johnson WR 6-3 170 Houma, LA (Ellender HS)
Kenyata Johnson LB 6-2 220 Jackson, MS (Provine HS/Hinds CC)
Tyler Marzette OT 6-6 320 Birmingham (Huffman HS)
Bobby McCain DB 5-11 180 Oxford, AL (Oxford HS)
Tyriq Patrick WR 6-3 190 Philadelphia, MS (Philadelphia HS)
Donald Pennington DT 6-2 300 Amite, LA (Amite HS)
Joe Price RB 5-9 175 Madison, MS (Madison Central HS)
Terry Redden DT 6-2 285 Memphis (Whitehaven HS)
Taylor Reed QB 6-3 210 El Dorado, AR (El Dorado HS)
Robert Roquemore OT 6-6 310 Covington, GA (Newton HS)
Jamere Valentine* WR 6-2 210 Myrtle Beach, SC (Myrtle Beach HS/Butte College)
Perrance Ward* DB 6-0 205 West Point, MS (West Point HS/East Miss. CC)
* junior college transfer
Get updates all day long on Larry Porter's second recruiting class at twitter.com/TigersMedia.
The Highland Hundred hosts a Signing Day bash at The Rendezvous at 4 p.m., with Coach Porter expected to appear at 5 p.m.
Quickest way to turn a sagging program around is in the trenches. Check out the vitals on these four signees, all offensive linemen:
* Tyler Marzette: 6'6", 320 lbs.
* Nicholas Chartain: 6'5", 320 lbs.
* Robert Roquemore: 6'5", 300 lbs.
* Taylor Fallin: 6'6", 320 lbs.