The Tigers traveled to Storrs, Connecticut, and played one of their finest games of the season Saturday, their acclaimed quartet of senior guards combining to score 61 points. Trouble was, UConn had Shabazz Napier.
The Huskies' senior star — a leading candidate for American Athletic Conference Player of the Year — scored a career-high 34 points, including a three-point play with 52 seconds left to tie the game. Napier's deep three-pointer with 1:45 to play in overtime extended UConn's lead to five (79-74) and all but clinched the Huskies' 20th win of the season.
This was late-March basketball in mid-February. UConn reeled off a 15-0 run midway through the first half to take a 23-14 lead, only to watch Memphis — behind an energized Geron Johnson — counter with an 11-0 run. An Austin Nichols dunk brought the Tigers within one at halftime (36-35) and a Chris Crawford trey gave Memphis a 46-43 lead early in the second half. But the Huskies then enjoyed a 15-5 run, thanks largely to seven straight points from Napier.
Michael Dixon drilled a three-pointer to pull the Tigers within one (62-61) with seven minutes left in the game, and Memphis finally took the lead on a slicing layup by Joe Jackson with 2:35 left. Jackson found David Pellom for a dunk a minute later to give the Tigers a three-point advantage, but the play was merely prelude to Napier's heroics to force overtime.
Shaq Goodwin drove to the rim but had his shot blocked cleanly with just under 20 seconds on the clock. A long three-point attempt by Napier rattled around the rim before falling out as regulation play ended. The Huskies outscored the Tigers 17-12 in the extra period.
Johnson played his finest game of the season, finishing with 15 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out early in overtime. Jackson scored a season-high 24 points, with Crawford adding 12 and Dixon 10 off the bench. Ryan Boatright complemented Napier's performance with 21 points, including 11 of 12 shots from the free throw line. UConn hit 29 of 36 free throws for the game, while Memphis connected on six of nine.
The loss drops the 20th-ranked Tigers (19-6) to 8-4 in AAC play, all but eliminating their chances for the first league title. They're now 3-3 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25 at the time of play. The 24th-ranked Huskies improve to 20-5, also 8-4 in the AAC.
Memphis will next travel to Rutgers and face the Scarlet Knights on Thursday. They return home next Saturday to host Temple at FedExForum.