Thursday, March 3, 2016

Temple 72, Tigers 62

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 8:03 PM

So much for the Tigers' first winning streak six weeks. 

Avery Woodson drained a three-pointer from the right wing to bring the Tigers within three points (60-57) with 4:30 left in tonight's game in Philadelphia, but that's the closest Memphis would get in an attempt to sweep its season series with the Owls. Devin Coleman hit a three-pointer for the Owls with 1:33 left to extend Temple's lead back to seven points and seal his team's 19th win of the season. Now 13-4 in American Athletic Conference play, the Owls can clinch the AAC's regular-season championship with a win Sunday at Tulane or an SMU loss in either of the Mustangs' final two games. (SMU hosts UConn tonight.)

The loss extends a season of misery for the U of M, now 16-14 overall and 7-10 in the AAC. The Tigers shot 38 percent from the field (though 40 percent from beyond the three-point line, 6 for 15). Dedric Lawson earned his 15th double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Shaq Goodwin scored 16 points and Ricky Tarrant Jr. led the team with 18. No other Tiger player scored as many as eight points.

Memphis will complete its regular season Sunday at East Carolina. They will enter next week's AAC tournament as the sixth seed and face the third seed in a Friday-night quarterfinal. The Tigers will need to win the AAC tourney — three games in three days — to land an NCAA tournament berth. The tourney's top seed (Temple) will be on the opposite side of the bracket.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tigers 92, Tulsa 82

Posted By on Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 6:37 PM

They wear uniform numbers 1 and 2 and when this Tiger team is right, Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin form as good a one-two punch as any frontcourt in college basketball. On Senior Day and in front of the largest announced crowd of the season at FedExForum (15,289), Lawson and Goodwin each put up double-doubles to spearhead an upset of Tulsa and clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming American Athletic Conference tournament. Lawson's 27 points and 12 rebounds are his best numbers to date in AAC play and give him 14 double-doubles for the season. Goodwin played his last college game at FedExForum in style, posting 28 points and 11 rebounds for his 16th career double-double. Goodwin scored six points over the game's final two minutes with four coming via two thunderous dunks.
Shaq Goodwin - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Shaq Goodwin

"We lost to Tulsa last year on Senior Day," acknowledged Goodwin. "So we had kind of a chip on our shoulder. I'm just glad we played two halves as a team. That will take us a long way."

Goodwin wasn't the only senior to make an impact. Trahson Burrell and Kedren Johnson made rare starts alongside Goodwin and point guard Ricky Tarrant Jr. Burrell had 11 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes and Johnson had, far and away, his best game in a season compromised by lingering injuries: 10 points (5 of 7 shooting) in 17 minutes. The Tigers' fifth senior, walk-on Caleb Wallingford, entered the game in the final seconds, allowing Goodwin one last ovation from the home crowd.

"[Our seniors] are not perfect," said Pastner, "but they've done a good job representing the community, the university. They've done nothing to embarrass the program. And that's not easy; we're not with them 24-7. I spend much of my time trying to educate our guys, and they've come a long way. They're all going to graduate. Kedren's married and has a child, with another one on the way. Trahson Burrell has two kids. I try and teach them about fathering, those kind of things. That's part of being a head coach at the college level."
Dedric Lawson - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Dedric Lawson

The Tigers trailed by one (47-46) at halftime, but took the lead early in the second half and maintained it, most importantly outscoring Tulsa 12-8 over the game's final five minutes, "finishing" in modern terms, a component sorely lacking most of the winter for a team that now stands 16-13 and 7-9 in the AAC. Memphis shot a staggering 39 free throws and made 31, distancing themselves in the category from Tulsa, which made 19 of 22 from the charity stripe. The Golden Hurricane hit six of 15 shots from three-point distance in the first half but only one of 10 in the second. The loss drops Tulsa to 19-10 and 11-6 in the American.

Goodwin signed a ball for a young fan immediately after the game, a gesture that didn't surprise his coach in the least. "Shaq's had his best year with us this year," noted Pastner. "He's a good guy. He's been a good ambassador, with many, many acts of kindness that people don't know about. I get emails, and I'm very proud of him for doing those kind of things."

The win once again prevented the first three-game losing streak of Pastner's coaching career. (The Tigers have had four consecutive three-game stretches now with two defeats followed by a victory.) The U of M also clinched at least a .500 record for the 16th straight season.

Two road games remain in the regular season: at Temple on March 3rd and at East Carolina on March 6th. Memphis will play its quarterfinal game in the AAC tourney (at Orlando) on Friday, March 11th.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

#24 SMU 69, Tigers 62

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 9:19 PM

"We battled. We competed. But we didn't execute down the stretch. I was proud of our young men. We came up short."

Memphis coach Josh Pastner's opening remarks in tonight's postgame press conference could be applied to about 10 of his team's 13 losses to date. Facing the team many still feel is the American Athletic Conference's top team, the U of M led — thanks to a Jake McDowell layup — with less than nine minutes to play. But then there's that finishing part. Missed free throws, turnovers, and an ill-advised heave with a minute to go all contributed to the Mustangs securing their second straight season-sweep of the Tigers.

After being held scoreless in the first half, SMU point guard Nic Moore — the front-runner for AAC Player of the Year — scored 12 points in the second half, including a three-pointer as he was falling out of bounds near the end of the shot clock that tied the score at 51. "That ball wound up in Nic's hands by accident," said Pastner. "We just didn't get any breaks. It's been like that all year long. That kind of got him going. I thought we did a good job on him for the most part."
Ricky Tarrant Jr. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ricky Tarrant Jr.

Ricky Tarrant Jr.
had a chance to tie the game at 63 with 1:37 to play but missed the first of two free throws. Down 63-62 with a minute to go, freshman guard Jeremiah Martin attempted a three-pointer from the left corner that didn't so much as hit the rim. Pastner was trying to call timeout as the shot was taken, but no player on the floor saw the signal in time.

Moore converted a floater on the Mustangs' next possesion to extend the lead to three and Dedric Lawson turned the ball over as he drove into the lane looking for an open teammate. Lawson's ensuing foul on Sterling Brown at the other end of the floor was ruled intentional, giving SMU both the free throws and possession of the ball. Game over.

"I don't do moral victories," said a disconsolate Avery Woodson. "I don't care if it's the number-one team in the country and we lose by one. It's a loss. It's tough, the ball not bouncing our way all year." Woodson hit two of six three-pointers and scored eight points, but missed his only two free throws. Overall, the Tigers missed nine of 22 shots from the charity stripe.

Lawson led Memphis with 18 points but, with only four rebounds, saw his streak of games with double-doubles end at five. Senior Shaq Goodwin was limited to 22 minutes by foul trouble and scored only eight points. Tarrant scored 15 and dished out seven assists.

"The law of averages has not worked in our favor," said Pastner. "Maybe it will Sunday. Hopefully it will in the conference tournament. If the right Memphis team shows up, we can win three games in the conference tournament. We've been hot and cold all year. We've practiced well; our energy was great. How we practice has not been how we play, and usually that's a correlation."

SMU outscored the Tigers 42-22 inside and shot 49 percent for the game, again exposing a Tiger defense that at one point ranked near the top of the AAC.

The Tigers, now 15-13,  will play their home finale — Senior Day — Sunday afternoon against Tulsa. Tip-off at FedExForum is scheduled for 3 p.m. 

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Senior Day ’16: Love Shaq?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 at 7:30 AM

Senior Day can be awkward. Before the Tigers’ 2014-15 home finale, the only senior on the roster — Calvin Godfrey — walked to center court to receive the customary salute, along with a framed jersey from coach Josh Pastner. It’s a special moment to witness every year.

But Godfrey played exactly one season of basketball for Memphis. We were just getting to know the lunch-pail forward when it was time to say goodbye. Such will be the case again this Sunday, when two more senior “one-and-dones” suit up at FedExForum for the last time. Caleb Wallingford made more impact as a U of M pitcher than he did as a guard on the hardwood. (He started 13 games for the 2015 Tiger baseball team.) Ricky Tarrant Jr. took over point guard duties this winter and became, in the eyes of Pastner, a member of this team’s key trio, pivotal to the success (or failures) of the squad. He’ll be saluted, though, having played more college games for Tulane than for Memphis (and a few for Alabama).
LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Kedren Johnson
and Trahson Burrell are a bit more familiar, having spent two seasons in blue and gray, with Burrell taking star turns this season as the Tigers’ sixth man. (Against East Carolina on January 24th, Burrell finished one assist shy of becoming just the third Memphis player to record a triple-double.)

But we know Shaq Goodwin, know him well. The Atlanta native — a McDonald’s All-American from Southwest DeKalb High School — is a member of a dying breed in college basketball: the four-year starter. If you’re good enough to start as a freshman at a prominent program these days, surely you’ll be cashing your first NBA paycheck before any music is played on Senior Day. Not Shaq Goodwin, though.

If Goodwin doesn’t miss another game, he should finish his Tiger career at least tied for 10th in games played. With 39 more points, Goodwin will join an exclusive club in Memphis history, players who rank among the program’s top 15 in scoring and top 10 in rebounds. The three others: Keith Lee, Forest Arnold, and Kelly Wise. Having entered the season with career averages of 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, Goodwin saved his best basketball for his senior campaign. His 14.9 points per game this season rank ninth in the American Athletic Conference. His 8.2 rebounds per game rank sixth. Only teammate Dedric Lawson ranks as highly in both categories. A second-team all-conference honoree as a sophomore, Goodwin will get plenty of votes for the first team at season’s end.

But Shaq Goodwin’s legacy as a Tiger will be one with contradictions. He was awarded the AAC’s Sportsmanship Award as a junior and has played with the brightest smile this program has seen in recent memory. But his senior year has been tarnished by a suspension for tripping an opponent (from the Tiger bench) and the technical foul he earned for dangling from the rim — by his right elbow — following a breakaway dunk at Tulane. The latter penalty provided the Green Wave a precious point in a game Memphis lost in overtime, one of the most embarrassing defeats in Goodwin’s college career. This is a young man you’d want babysitting your kids — especially with a basketball court nearby — but not necessarily occupying the next seat in a boardroom. Childish exuberance can be endearing until it presents as immaturity.
LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

When I asked Goodwin last fall about his primary objective as a senior, he emphasized consistency. And he has indeed been the most consistently solid performer on the Tigers’ current roster. Alas, Goodwin’s elevated play won’t be enough to reach the NCAA tournament unless the Tigers catch lightning in a bottle at the AAC tournament next month in Orlando. Among all the games Goodwin has played as a Tiger, only four were in the Big Dance. It’s a contradiction matched only by Anthony Rice (three NCAA tournament games) among the U of M’s career-games leaders.

I’ll miss Shaq Goodwin. He stuck around while prominent teammates like Tarik Black, Nick King, and Austin Nichols chose to jump ship for other programs where they’d be more comfortable. (Goodwin will graduate in May with a degree in Human Services.) Goodwin has stood by his embattled head coach, displaying the kind of loyalty rarely seen in boardrooms of struggling companies, let alone college basketball programs in the crosshairs of a fed-up fan base. There’s maturity in that, a grace that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Sunday’s game will not be a sellout. Who knows how many Tiger fans will be standing and cheering for the pregame senior salutes. It won’t be as many as Shaq Goodwin envisioned when he played his first game as a Tiger in November 2012. But he will have earned the cheers. As for those in attendance, they should be grateful for one last smile, among the brightest in Memphis Tigers history.




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Saturday, February 20, 2016

USF 80, Memphis 71

Posted By on Sat, Feb 20, 2016 at 12:15 PM

It's time we no longer classify these losses as embarrassing. East Carolina. Tulane. Now a USF team that entered this morning's game in Tampa having lost all six of its home games in AAC play. No, the Memphis Tigers are among the have-nots in the AAC, to say nothing of the larger, 351-team Division 1 picture. If not to be expected, these losses are the state of things at the U of M.
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Nehemias Morillo (19 points) and Jahmal McMurray (17) led the way for the Bulls, who ended a nine-game losing streak in the series with Memphis (dating back to January 2003). The Tigers led, 51-49, with eight minutes to play, but USF enjoyed a 7-0 run on its way to outscoring Memphis 31-20 the rest of the contest.

The Tigers shot 36 percent from the field and worse (28 percent) from three-point range. And they missed free throws (10 for 20). Senior forward Dedric Lawson earned his fifth straight double-double (and 13th of the season) with 17 points and 10 rebounds, but senior forward Shaq Goodwin had his worst game in two months (6 points, 2 for 10 from the field). Avery Woodson scored 17 for the Tigers and Nick Marshall added nine points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Now 15-12 (6-8 in the AAC) with only one road win, the Tigers will book the program's worst road record since at least 1999-2000 when they went 3-8 away from home in Johnny Jones's lone season as head coach.

The Tigers will host 21st-ranked SMU next Thursday at FedExForum then play their home finale (against Tulsa) on February 28th.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tigers 73, UCF 56

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 9:46 PM

"If you want to go back to the John Calipari years, you need to call John Calipari."

For most of his seven years as head coach of the Memphis Tigers, Josh Pastner has deferred the good nights to his players and staff. Wins are "all about the players" or the result of advanced scouting by one assistant or another.

Not tonight. After a rather routine win over a weak UCF team — a victory that improves the Tigers' record to 15-11 — Pastner commanded the microphone at his postgame press conference with a style and vigor distinct to the current atmosphere around his program, more specifically his job. Having fielded one final question about his team's performance relative to the escalated temperature of his proverbial seat, Pastner described his view of this city's most scrutinized job.
Josh Pastner - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Josh Pastner

"I got the job here," he began, "because nobody wanted the job. The day I got the job, I asked my own wife, 'Who would want to follow this guy?' I was there [with Calipari in the 2008-09 season] when we went to eat pizza, went to Starbucks . . . it was a craze. It was insane. It was like being with a rock star. 

"Since day one, people probably didn't think I'd make it through year one. But we've been very successful, we've won 163 games. We've run the program the right way. When you talk about conference realignment, men's basketball has to be in a great situation with the NCAA, academically, not just wins and losses. I think we've done a great job.

"But I get people being upset. I know what they remember because I was a part of it. We won 27 in a row, and when we lost to Missouri in the Sweet 16, it was devastation. When we were at Calipari's house and he was deciding whether he was going or not going, there was a helicopter flying above his house. This is a basketball coach, not a hostage situation. The media had to know if we were leaving the house or not. I understood when I took this job.

"For seven days [after Calipari left], it was mourning here. The city's over. Shut down the university. I knew what was going to happen. I knew I had a short window. If we didn't get back to the Sweet 16, it's 'I want to go back to the Calipari years.' "

It was entirely good-natured, but emphatic, a slight grin on Pastner's face as he essentially addressed the entire watching-or-listening legion of Tiger fans, at least those who remain in said legion. "There's one guy who can win at that rate . . . maybe Mike Krzyzewski. He could do that in the Sun Belt, at a MEAC school. That's just him. And we didn't get back to the Sweet 16. I'm not ducking it, I'm not hiding from it.

"I think there were 15 coaches who got double-digit raises because of Memphis [and the search to replace Calipari.] They eventually had to hire a coach. I was the only one left. I was begging C.J. Henry — who couldn't play Division III — to play for me. I had to take a kid — D.J. Stephens — after a mass email. I had to take a kid from France. That's where the program was [in 2009]. I think we've been very successful. I hope we can make a run and get there. People might think differently."

Exhale.

Pastner's players know the current temperature, and appear to be playing at maximum effort, whatever their collective shortcomings. Senior Shaq Goodwin led the way with his sixth double-double of the season (12 points, 10 rebounds) and freshman Dedric Lawson added his 12th (13 points, 11 rebounds). Trahson Burrell came off the bench and contributed 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists without committing a turnover.

"Everything is about pride from here on out," said Burrell. "Team pride and personal pride."

Added freshman Craig Randall, who scored 10 points in his fourth straight start, "Coach P is the only coach who took a chance on me, TB, and others. We want to win for him."

"We just keep pushing," said Burrell. "We hear [the criticism], but we try to block it out. We'd love for Coach P to keep his job. We'll fight for him every game."

The Tigers held the Knights to just 15 points in the first half as they improved to 6-7 in the American Athletic Conference. Despite the presence of 7'6" Tacko Fall for UCF, Memphis won the rebounding battle, 44-39. Avery Woodson added 12 points for Memphis, highlighted by a dunk and three-pointer on consecutive second-half possessions.

The Tigers travel to USF for a morning tilt (10 a.m. tipoff) Saturday. They return to FedExForum on September 25th to host SMU. 

NOTE: The general consensus Wednesday night had attendance at FEF around 6,000, near the figure the Tigers must average over their last three home games to receive a portion of the $800,000 owed the university as part of its arena lease agreement. In addition to the SMU game, Memphis will host Tulsa in a matinee on Sunday, February 28th.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Tulane 94, Tigers 87 (OT)

Posted By on Sat, Feb 13, 2016 at 3:39 PM

It's becoming an interesting debate: What is the Tigers' worst loss of the season?

We have a new entry in the discussion after the U of M fell today in overtime at Tulane. The Green Wave entered the contest with a record of 9-16, just 2-9 in the American Athletic Conference. Malik Morgan banked in a three-pointer from the right wing with 45 seconds to play in overtime to give Tulane a 91-87 lead and the Tigers couldn't score the remainder of the game. With the loss, Memphis falls to 14-11 and 5-7 in the AAC.

The Tigers had a three point lead (80-77) with 18 seconds to play in regulation before Cameron Reynolds drained a three-pointer from the left corner. The best Memphis could do before the buzzer was a desperation heave by Ricky Tarrant Jr. after an inbounds pass with two seconds on the clock. Tarrant did not play in overtime after an apparent leg injury on the final shot. In a return to the campus where he played two seasons, Tarrant finished with 19 points and four assists.

Dedric Lawson scored 25 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to earn his 11th double-double of the season for the Tigers. Shaq Goodwin scored 15 points and grabbed nine boards, but earned a silly technical foul near the end of the first half when he dangled from the rim after a breakaway dunk. (The point Tulane earned after the foul proved valuable.) Trahson Burrell scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds off the Memphis bench.

Morgan and Dylan Osetkowski led the way for the Green Wave with 23 points each. Louis Dabney scored 17 and Reynolds added 12 off the bench.

Memphis shot 43 percent for the game compared with 47 percent for the victors. The Green Wave hit 23 of 33 free throws while the Tigers were 16 for 24 from the line.

The Tigers return to FedExForum Wednesday night to host UCF. They must win four of their remaining six regular-season games to merely finish .500 in the AAC. 
 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Houston 98, Tigers 90

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 8:21 PM

Memphis scored 90 points against a team missing its top scorer . . . and lost by eight.

With Rob Gray Jr. in street clothes on the Houston bench, Devonta Pollard played Kobe Bryant tonight, hitting 14 of 24 field-goal attempts on his way to 34 points as the Cougars came from behind to beat the Tigers. Damyean Dotson added 21 points and helped Houston shoot 56 percent from the field. The win improves the Cougars to 17-7 and 7-5 in the American Athletic Conference. The Tigers' downward spiral continues with a fifth loss in seven games, leaving the U of M with a 14-10 mark (5-6 in the AAC).

Memphis enjoyed an eight-point lead at halftime behind 16 points from Shaq Goodwin and 10 from Dedric Lawson. The Tigers led for more than 20 minutes of the contest before Houston took the lead on a pair of free throws by Dotson (following a technical foul called against Avery Woodson) with 5:08 to play. Memphis never regained the lead.

Goodwin finished with 24 points to lead the Tigers and Lawson added 20. Ricky Tarrant Jr. sat for much of the second half with four fouls and contributed only three points with no assists. Craig Randall started his second straight game and scored 10 points. Trahson Burrell scored 10 more off the Memphis bench.

The teams tallied the exact same number of field goals (33) and three-pointers (7), the difference coming at the free-throw line where Houston hit 25 of 32 (78 percent) while Memphis made 17 of 20 (85 percent).

The Tigers travel to Tulane for a Saturday matinee against the Green Wave. They return to FedExForum on February 17th to host UCF.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Memphis Tigers' 2016 Football Schedule

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2016 at 10:17 AM

Sept. 3 — Southeast Missouri State
Sept. 17 — Kansas
Sept. 24 — Bowling Green
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Oct. 1 — at Ole Miss
Oct. 6 (Thu) — Temple*
Oct. 14 (Fri) — at Tulane*
Oct. 22 — at Navy*
Oct. 29 — Tulsa*

Nov. 5 — at SMU*
Nov. 12 — USF*
Nov. 18 (Fri) — at Cincinnati*
Nov. 25 (Fri) — Houston*

* American Athletic Conference game

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tigers 63, Cincinnati 59

Posted By on Sat, Feb 6, 2016 at 5:59 PM

Thirty-nine hours after their most dispiriting loss of the season, the Tigers secured their biggest win to date. With double-doubles from Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson (each had 20 points and 11 rebounds), the U of M never trailed Cincinnati and avoided what would have been the first three-game losing streak in seven years under coach Josh Pastner. Junior guard Avery Woodson drained a three-pointer from the right wing after the Bearcats' Troy Caupain had closed the Memphis lead to one with 1:45 left in the game. He and Ricky Tarrant Jr. combined to hit four free throws in the game's final 15 seconds to lock up the victory. And the win couldn't be more of a relief, particularly for Pastner.
Dedric Lawson - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Dedric Lawson

"We just needed to start fresh," said Pastner, who spent almost the entire game seated in his chair on the Memphis bench. "Nine-game [regular] season, let's see how it goes. No regrets. Let's leave it on the floor, have fun, have toughness. New day, new season. Let the chips fall where they fall. We had a good practice yesterday, and a good team meeting. The guys responded. All credit goes to the players. That's not an easy situation to play in: two-game losing streak, tons of negativity, and a quick turnaround against a very good Cincinnati team."

Among the players who responded with the greatest impact was swingman Trahson Burrell, back in the rotation after a one-game disciplinary suspension. Burrell contributed nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block . . . and could have played better (he missed 11 of 14 attempts from the field). He exuded the positive energy his coach craves after the game. "I love Coach P," said Burrell. "He's looked out for me the last two years; helped me become a man."

Freshman Craig Randall made his first start for the Tigers (in place of Sam Craft). Pastner said he wanted to "get a look" at Randall in the interests of relieving the minutes load Tarrant has carried all season. Randall's only two points were the first two of the game. He delivered a pair of assists in 12 minutes on the floor. (Tarrant only took one shot from the field and played just 18 minutes.)

Similar to Thursday night against Connecticut, the Tigers played much better in the first half than they did in the second. But their halftime lead today (15 points) proved to be just enough for the win, despite only six field goals made in the second half. Memphis outrebounded the Bearcats, 49-38, and made 18 of 24 free throws. The Tigers committed 13 turnovers, seven fewer than in the loss to the Huskies.

Memphis improves to 14-9 for the season and 5-5 in the American Athletic Conference, while Cincinnati falls to 17-7 (7-4). The Tigers and Bearcats have split their two meetings each of the last two seasons. Caupain led Cincinnati with 17 points and Gary Clark added 15.

The U of M hits the road for its next two games, at Houston (Wednesday) and at Tulane (next Saturday).

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Connecticut 77, Tigers 57

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 11:24 PM

The fans hit the exits with six minutes to go,
Their favorite team's season having hit a new low.

A day after Memphis lost one of its favorite Tigers — broadcaster and poet, Jack Eaton — the current group of basketball players continued its downward spiral with the worst 20 minutes seen at FedExForum this winter. The U of M took the floor after halftime with a one-point lead (37-36) and proceeded to make a total of four field goals the rest of the game. Over the first 10 minutes of the second period, the UConn Huskies took 22 shots (and made 10), while the Tigers committed seven turnovers and took all of five shots. That one-point advantage turned into a 13-point deficit (59-46), and the gap only grew as the arena emptied and the clock — slowly — wound to zero.

"They really stepped on the gas," said senior forward Shaq Goodwin. "And we couldn't catch up to them. Effort plays and execution." Tonight the Tigers had neither after halftime.
Avery Woodson - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Avery Woodson

Huskies forward Daniel Hamilton scored 16 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and handed out eight assists in helping his team sweep the season series from Memphis. UConn improves to 16-6 (6-3 in the American Athletic Conference), while the Tigers fall to 13-9 (4-5). The Huskies took a total of 71 shots for the game (making 32), while Memphis was merely 16 for 41 from the field (4 for 16 after halftime). The Tigers committed a season-high 20 turnovers and were outscored 54-24 in the paint.

Tiger coach Josh Pastner described his team's second-half play as "lethargic" and emphasized that his team will not win games without the trio of Goodwin, Dedric Lawson, and Ricky Tarrant Jr. playing well. Goodwin was held to eight points and six rebounds in 33 minutes; Lawson scored six points and committed the same number of turnovers; and Tarrant committed five turnovers and missed eight of 18 free-throw attempts after entering the game shooting 86 percent from the line. Overall, the Tigers were 21 for 36 from the charity stripe.

"We just didn't start well [in the second half]," said Pastner. "It's one of those things. We couldn't get our big three guys going. I thought we were a little slow offensively, plus the turnovers really, really hurt us."

Senior forward Trahson Burrell dressed for the game and sat on the Tiger bench but did not play for disciplinary reasons. Pastner said Burrell will be reinstated Friday.

When asked if he heard the booing from the crowd that remained at the end of the game, Pastner said, "This is high-major college basketball. It's not intramurals. That's part of it."

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2016 Memphis Tigers Football Signing Class

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Rookie coach Mike Norvell has hit what he considers a home run with his first Memphis signing class. Eight players on the defensive side of the ball, ten on offense (including eight at the skill positions).

Nehemiah Augustus — linebacker (6-0, 205), Patterson, LA

Jahod Booker — wide receiver (5-11, 185), Montgomery, AL  
 
Jonathan Cook — safety (6-0, 198), Daphne, AL  

Sean Dykes — wide receiver (6-1, 210), Manvel, TX  
 
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Riley Ferguson
 — quarterback (6-4, 190), Matthews, NC  
 
Jacobi Francis — cornerback (5-9, 160), Covington, GA  
 
Harneet Gill — offensive line (6-7, 265), St. Charles, MO  

Tim Hart — linebacker (6-1, 220), Memphis, TN (MUS)  
 
Darrell Henderson — running back (5-9, 175), Batesville, MS  
 
Hunter Hill — wide receiver (5-11, 184), Memphis, TN (Briarcrest)  
 
Bryce Huff — linebacker (6-3, 245), Mobile, AL  

Jocelee "Lio" Lafaele — offensive line (6-4, 290), Corona, CA        

Tyrez Lindsey — safety (6-2, 187), Dothan, AL       

David Moore — quarterback (6-2, 185), Alpharetta, GA  
 
Thomas Pickens — safety (6-4, 258), Memphis, TN (MUS)  
 
Patrick Taylor, Jr. — running back (6-3, 216), Humble, TX    
 
John Tate — defensive end (6-4, 258), Pine Bluff, AR  
 
Pop Williams — wide receiver (5-9, 165), Destrehan, LA   

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Ides of February

This is the month that will define the Tigers' season — and their coach's future.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 9:22 AM

The games must be played. However uncomfortable the next six weeks may become for the Memphis Tigers and their beleaguered head coach, at least 11 games remain on the schedule (counting at least one in the American Athletic Conference tournament). As of this writing, the Tigers are 13-8 with a 4-4 mark that has them tied for seventh place in the 11-team AAC. If the empty seats at FedExForum and calls for Josh Pastner's job have been unsettling to this point, just wait for the reaction to a nosedive — if a nosedive occurs — while 68 other programs book tickets for next month's Big Dance.

Last Saturday's loss at SMU can be viewed one of two ways. Glass half full: The Mustangs are a tier above every other team in the AAC (as the standings indicate), making a loss — even a blowout — on the team's home floor nothing worthy of teeth-grinding. Glass half empty: The dramatic gap in talent between the SMU roster and the one at Pasner's disposal accentuates how far this program has fallen, and how large the gap has become between reality as a Memphis Tiger and the dreams of a Sweet 16 (let alone Final Four) appearance.
Shaq Goodwin: "We'll man up." - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Shaq Goodwin: "We'll man up."

Forget the Tigers' horrid record against ranked teams under Pastner. For now, the U of M program needs to find ways to merely beat its own league's elite: SMU, Connecticut, and Cincinnati. Since moving to the AAC from Conference USA in 2013, the Tigers are now 4-12 against this trio of league exemplars. You can't compete for national championships unless you can compete for your conference title. Which makes this week at FedExForum maybe the biggest two-game home stand of the 38-year-old Pastner's career. Sweep Connecticut (here Thursday) and Cincinnati (Saturday) and the Tigers will find themselves at worst tied in the loss column with the Huskies and Bearcats this time next week. Split these games or (teeth-grinding time) lose both, and we can consider the nosedive underway. This is the collateral effect of the home loss to East Carolina on January 24th. Memphis must knock off a team it's not expected to beat. One, at the very least.

Can the Tigers sweep this week's contests? So much must happen to counter what we've seen of late. Freshman star Dedric Lawson is averaging 14.4 points and 9.0 rebounds this season, but averaged 8.5 points and 6.0 boards in the Tigers' two narrow losses at UConn and Cincinnati last month. Lawson must make a difference against an AAC power before we can consider him truly among the best freshmen in Tiger history. Trahson Burrell must be the player who came an assist shy of a triple-double in the loss to ECU, and not the one who disappeared (eight points, two rebounds, no assists) at SMU. And the Tigers simply must find offensive support for their "Big Three" of Lawson, Shaq Goodwin, and Ricky Tarrant Jr. Two starters against the Mustangs — Sam Craft and Markel Crawford — failed to score. "Organizing" the team (Craft's specialty) and marking the opponent's top gun (Crawford's) are important, but Tiger opponents have taken to sagging on Lawson and Goodwin. Points must be generated elsewhere.

Surely the Tigers welcome turning a page on the calendar, having finished a 4-5 January highlighted only by the narrow win over Temple at home and a road beatdown of UCF. Pastner and his staff would be wise to erase (or hide) any indication of the January stumble-fest. Make February a season within a season. Take the two big games this week, then focus on winning four — if not five — of the remaining six. (SMU comes to town February 25th). Six wins this month would put the team on the cusp of 20 when we next turn the calendar to March where college basketball's elite are separated from the hoi polloi.

This team knows what's being said about its performances to date. "I've been here a while," said Goodwin after the Temple win, "and I know how they do Coach Pastner. My sophomore year, I asked him why, and he said, 'You gotta win. You gotta win big games.' We'll accept that. We'll man up on that. But we pay attention to it, and we'll get it right once we get on a winning streak."

If a winning streak is to happen for the 2015-16 Memphis Tigers it will start this month. Would it be enough to erase January, to lower the temperature on Josh Pastner's hot seat? Come Thursday night, we'll have some answers. 

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

#13 SMU 80, Tigers 68

Posted By on Sat, Jan 30, 2016 at 9:20 PM

larrybrownsmu_thumb_560x331.jpeg
No contest. The SMU Mustangs may be ineligible for postseason play this season, but they made clear the disparity between their talented roster and that of the Memphis Tigers Saturday night at Moody Coliseum in Dallas. Led by point guard Nic Moore (the favorite for American Athletic Conference Player of the Year scored 22 points), the Mustangs led by 11 points just nine minutes into the game and Memphis never closed within single digits.

The loss is a damaging opener to the hardest four-game stretch of the Tigers' season. Now 13-8 and 4-4 in the AAC, the U of M will face Connecticut (Thursday) and Cincinnati (Saturday) at home in what amounts to must-win games for any chance at a favorable seeding in the AAC tournament come March. The team's chances for an at-large NCAA tournament bid likely died last Sunday when East Carolina won its first league game at FedExForum.

The Tigers were held to 34-percent shooting (22 for 65) and missed 15 of 20 attempts from three-point range. SMU controlled the glass with 47 rebounds to the Tigers' 32.

Senior Shaq Goodwin led the Tigers with 18 points before fouling out late in the second half. Two Memphis starters — guards Sam Craft and Markel Crawford — failed to score, freshman forward Dedric Lawson missed seven of eight shots from the field (seven points, 12 rebounds), and Ricky Tarrant Jr. was held to 10 points before also fouling out. Freshman guard Jeremiah Martin contributed 11 points off the bench, his highest point total of the season.

Shake Milton scored 13 points for SMU with Sterling Brown and Ben Moore each adding 12. The Mustangs are now 19-1 for the season and in control atop the AAC standings with an 8-1 mark. SMU will visit FedExForum for a rematch on February 25th, by which time both teams may be playing solely for pride.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tigers 97, UCF 86

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 8:16 PM

Shaq Goodwin
  • Shaq Goodwin
Senior forward Shaq Goodwin established a new career-high in scoring — before halftime — and Memphis avoided its first three-game losing streak in 11 years. Despite being outsized by UCF's twin titans (Tacko Fall and Justin McBride), Goodwin scored 35 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and even handed out a career-high in assists (6) to lead the way in Orlando for the Tigers' first road victory of the season.

Two days after the most deflating loss of the season (to East Carolina at FedExForum), Tiger coach Josh Pastner replaced Markel Crawford in the starting lineup with senior swingman Trahson Burrell. After falling an assist shy of a triple-double against ECU, Burrell was limited to two points (one for seven from the field), but the Tigers had more than enough offensive firepower elsewhere. In addition to Goodwin's career night, junior guard Avery Woodson scored a season-high 19, including five three-pointers. Ricky Tarrant Jr. added 18 points and Dedric Lawson earned the eighth double-double of his freshman season (15 points and 12 rebounds).

As a team, the Tigers shot 50 percent from the field, but allowed the Knights to shoot 53 percent. The U of M hit a season-high 12 three-pointers, combined for 24 assists, and committed only eight turnovers. It was 40 minutes of productive basketball, twice the showing last Sunday against the Pirates.

Now 13-7 (4-3 in the American Athletic Conference), the Tigers will travel to Dallas Saturday to face 13th-ranked SMU (18-1). The game will open the toughest three-game stretch of the Tigers' season, with visits next week from Connecticut (February 4th) and Cincinnati (February 6th).

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