Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gonzaga 82, Tigers 64

Posted By on Sat, Jan 31, 2015 at 11:31 PM

There was hope for the Memphis Tigers tonight, down only six points (28-22) with just under five minutes to play in the first half at Gonzaga. But then the third-ranked Bulldogs outscored their guests 15-2 over the next four minutes to create what amounted to an entire second half of garbage time. Przemek Karnowski (victim of the famous Joe Jackson block just less than a year ago) led the Zags with 17 points and Kyle Wiltjer added 15 to help Gonzaga (22-1) earn its 15th straight victory and 38th straight win at home. The Tigers fall to 13-8 with the loss.

Down 18 at the half (43-25), the Tigers found themselves down 22 (63-41) midway through the second half before going on an 11-1 run. But the U of M never closed within 10 points down the stretch, making this the seventh of eight losses by double digits.

Memphis took an astounding 74 shots (27 more than Gonzaga) but made only 26 (35 percent). They outrebounded the Zags (36-35), pulling down 16 offensive boards, and forced 14 turnovers. But the Tigers hit merely four of 16 shots from three-point range while Gonzaga was eight for 16 from long range.

Austin Nichols (12) and Nick King (13) were the only Tigers to score in double figures. Shaq Goodwin started after missing most of the Tigers' previous game with a mild ankle injury but did not score. Trahson Burrell scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench.

Gonzaga made 22 of 33 free throws, compared with eight-of-fourteen shooting from the line by the Tigers.

Memphis will play its final nonconference game of the season next Wednesday night when Jacksonville State visits FedExForum.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tigers 70, East Carolina 58

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 11:16 PM

The Memphis Tigers withstood a second-half barrage of three-pointers by the overmatched East Carolina Pirates to win their second straight game and finish the first half of their American Athletic Conference schedule with a record of 6-3 (13-7 overall). Down 15 at halftime, ECU hit eight of its first 12 attempts from beyond the arc in the second half to close the deficit to merely five (61-56) with 4:30 to play. But the U of M scored nine of the game's final 11 points to secure its 12th double-digit win of the season.

Austin Nichols

"They were on fire in the second half," acknowledged Tiger forward Austin Nichols, who scored a game-high 21 points. "We just gotta finish games better. Markel [Crawford] and Avery [Woodson] were hand-in-their-face, up under the shooter. But they were just knocking them down. They're one of the best three-point shooting teams in our conference." Terry Whisnant led the way for East Carolina with five treys (on seven attempts) and 17 points. Five other Pirates connected from long range, with Caleb White adding 10 points. ECU's 13 three-pointers are the most Memphis has given up this season. Add six treys by the Tigers and the game featured more total long-range field goals of any Memphis game this season.

A furious end to the first half seemed to secure the game for the Tigers after 20 minutes. Trahson Burrell slammed home a lob from Avery Woodson, then dunked on a breakaway feed from Woodson before Nick King drained a three-pointer for a 39-24 lead. (King scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 19 minutes after not playing in the Tigers' win last Saturday at Tulane.) But four Pirate three pointers in the first six minutes of the second half closed the margin to seven points. A steady, efficient Tiger offense (19 assists, six turnovers) prevented what would have been an ugly loss in front of 13,335 fans at FedExForum.

"We were smart with the basketball, took care of the basketball," said junior guard Kedren Johnson (seven points, two assists). "They hit a lot of tough shots, with hands in their faces. I don't think our energy was as good as it's been recently, but taking care of the ball kept us in the game, and ultimately got us the win."

Johnson insists a conference championship remains a goal, though he knows his team will have to perform better than 6-3 over the second half of the AAC season. "It's just giving ourselves a chance. We need to keep ourselves within striking distance." The Tigers remain three games behind first-place Tulsa in the AAC loss column.

Burrell scored 11 points for the U of M and six different Tigers had at least two assists (Woodson led the way with five). Memphis dominated the Pirates in the paint, 34-12.

The Tigers next take the floor Saturday night in Spokane Washington, against the third-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game is scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. locally and will be televised on ESPN2.

NOTE: Junior forward Shaq Goodwin started the game for Memphis, (his first start since January 8th), but went to the bench after turning an ankle with just 19 seconds expired. He expects to play against Gonzaga.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tigers 57, Tulane 55

Posted By on Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 9:25 PM

Austin Nichols hit a 10-foot jump shot from the left baseline with 3.1 seconds left to play to give the Tigers a much-needed win over Tulane at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. After trailing most of the game, the Green Wave tied the score at 51 on a floater by Louis Dabney with 2:30 to play. Nichols hit a free throw, then an acrobatic tip off the backboard to give Memphis a 54-51 lead, only to see Jay Hook tie things with a three-pointer with just over a minute to play.


Nichols and Dabney each hit one of two free throws to set up the sophomore Tiger's game-winning heroics. The win avenges a Tiger loss to Tulane three weeks ago at FedExForum. The U of M improves to 12-7 on the season and 5-3 in American Athletic Conference play while Tulane falls to 13-7 (4-4). The game is just the second for the Tigers this season to be decided by fewer than ten points.

Memphis enjoyed runs of 12-0 and 7-0 (each keyed by Avery Woodson three-pointers) to take a 32-25 halftime lead. Freshman Markel Crawford had 11 points in the first half (including a thunderous dunk) on his way to a season-high 15 for the game. The Tiger lead grew to nine (49-40) midway through the second half before Tulane began scratching its way back. Hook led the way for the Green Wave with 13 points, while Dabney and Jonathan Stark added 10 each.

Nichols led the Tigers with 17 points and nine rebounds. The Tigers shot 43 percent for the game and held the Green Wave to 35 percent. The teams combined for 33 turnovers and only 18 assists in front of a near-empty arena normally packed for games featuring the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans.

The Tigers will return to action Wednesday night when they host East Carolina at FedExForum.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tulsa 73, Tigers 55

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 8:23 PM

In a season Josh Pastner likes to compare with peaks and valleys, the coach's team may have hit rock bottom tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Entering the game on a three-game winning streak, Memphis took a 9-5 lead over eight minutes of sloppy play, then surrendered the lead for good when Tulsa went on an 11-2 run midway through the first half. Down just seven (30-23) at halftime, the Tigers were declawed over the first nine minutes of the second half. They needed a 14-0 run to merely cut the Golden Hurricane lead in half (to 56-42).


For the 17th time in 18 games played by the U of M, the final scoring margin was in double figures. This team does not play close games.

Tulsa was led by its dynamic backcourt duo of James Woodard (16 points) and Shaquille Harrison (18 points, 10 rebounds). The 2014 Conference USA champions are now 6-0 as new members of the American Athletic Conference and 13-5 overall. Meanwhile Memphis falls into the AAC's second tier with a conference mark of 4-3 (11-7 overall). The Golden Hurricane extended its winning streak to eight games and ended a 10-game winning streak for the Tigers in Tulsa.

Avery Woodson led the Tigers with 15 points and Austin Nichols added 12. No other Memphis player scored more than six. The Tigers gave up 25 offensive rebounds and committed 16 turnovers which contributed to Tulsa taking 65 shots in 40 minutes. Rarely will you see a team blown out by 18 points when it shoots a higher percentage from the field (43 percent) than its opponent (39 percent). Tulsa also missed 13 of 34 free throws.

The Tigers will next travel to New Orleans to face Tulane Saturday. The Green Wave beat Memphis at FedExForum on January 3rd.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tiger Attendance: Reason to Worry?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 8:00 AM

I don’t worry about Josh Pastner. The Tiger coach is young, healthy, ambitious, and certainly well-paid for his work in the city’s brightest spotlight. To borrow from Pastner's current expression of choice, basketball coaches endure seasons with "valleys." Better days are ahead for him.

But I do worry about malaise in the Tiger basketball fan base. Even worse, disinterest. It’s one thing for your team of choice to be bad, and quite another for it to be . . . uninteresting. Judging by the most empty seats I’ve seen at FedExForum in years, there are lots of Tiger fans not all that fired up by the 2014-15 club.

The team's current three-game winning streak (a "peak") has improved the buzz, particularly the upset of Cincinnati last week. But there remain some troubling attendance figures to digest:

• The Tigers have averaged 13,702 in attendance this season, down from 16,121 last season. [NOTE: For the purposes of this column, we’re going with the tickets-sold figure announced at each game.] That’s a drop of 15 percent from last season. Either Joe Jackson was a lot more popular than I thought, or the community perception of the Tigers has changed for the worse.

• This will likely be the first season since 2006-07 that the Tigers have averaged fewer than 16,000 fans at home. The team is safely ahead of the 2004-05 team, which drew an average of 10,552 over 23 home dates. (That team went 16-7 at home and played in the NIT after Darius Washington’s missed free throws in the Conference USA championship game.)

• When the Tigers hosted Cincinnati last year (January 4th), 17,191 tickets were sold for the renewal of a longtime rivalry. The Bearcats beat the Tigers by 16 points that Saturday afternoon. Last Thursday, only 14,916 tickets were sold for the same opponent. A 6 p.m. tip-off, no weather issues, and a 13-percent drop in ticket sales for what turned out to be a 13-point Memphis win.

• According to university officials, the Tigers have sold 13,856 season tickets this season. So, factoring in single-game purchases, when announced attendance is, say, 12,995 (as it was for the Western Illinois game on December 23rd), it means thousands of people are not going to a Tiger game . . . despite owning a ticket.

• Last season, the Tigers sold more than 18,000 tickets to five home games: UConn, Gonzaga, Temple, Louisville, and SMU. (The Huskies, Owls, and Mustangs will visit FedExForum again this season and should help improve the attendance numbers.) This season, the most popular game was that Cincinnati contest with ticket sales just shy of 15,000.

This is where I actually do worry about Pastner (a little). Forget the six losses (three of them at home). Empty seats get coaches fired. Let’s consider three factors contributing to all the elbow room at FEF:

1) Too much of a good thing (or mediocre thing?). The Tigers played nine home games over 33 days from December 2nd to January 3rd. Only the most passionate (and, perhaps, unattached) Tiger fans attended all nine of those games during holiday season. And I salute every one of you.

2) Directional delusion. Generally speaking, if a college basketball team has a geographic component to its name, it will not be highlighted on the schedules fans tape to their fridges. Among the Tiger foes to visit Memphis last month we saw “central,” “western,” and even “upstate.” The Tigers are undefeated against directional teams this season . . . and no fan really cares.

3) The Grizzlies are kicking ass and taking names. The novelty of this town’s NBA team winning games regularly is over (this is healthy). The community has grown accustomed to the Griz being playoff contenders (four straight trips to the postseason), and now consider the NBA Finals within reach. Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen have been wearing Memphis uniforms longer than players are eligible to wear the Tiger uniform. They are familiar friends, winning lots of basketball games. Average attendance for Grizzly games this season: 17,213. Make no mistake: some of those fans are choosing one brand of basketball over another. (The Grizzlies had nine home games in December.)

The Tigers have only six more home games. Their chances at an NCAA tournament berth seem slim at best. How much energy will be felt at FedExForum if the Tigers are viewed as merely developing players for next season?

Winning games, of course, fills arena seats. And you can be sure Josh Pastner is spending any free time he might find brainstorming ways to win more than he has in his sixth season at the Tiger helm. A win at Tulsa this week would be big. A win at third-ranked Gonzaga on January 31st would change everything. But his program is in need of a ticket-selling infusion of vitality. If that doesn’t come soon, Pastner and those still attending Tiger games will have reason to worry.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tigers 99, UCF 79

Posted By on Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 4:23 PM

A pair of key players returned to form Saturday afternoon at FedExForum and helped the Tigers to an easy win over the UCF Knights. Dominating the glass with a 53-24 rebounding advantage, Memphis cruised to its third straight win to improve to 11-6 on the season and 4-2 in American Athletic Conference play.

Junior forward Shaq Goodwin came off the bench and had his best game in over a month with 16 points and 10 rebounds (his second double-double of the season). Sophomore Nick King also came off the bench and scored 16 points in 22 minutes, his highest point total since he had 16 against Wichita State in the season opener.

Calvin Godfrey

"We had a good day of practice after the Cincinnati game," said Goodwin. "We knew [UCF] had great young guards, so we keyed on them and ended up winning." The Knights' high-scoring backcourt did not hit a three-point shot until late in the first half, held in check by the perimeter defense of Markel Crawford, Avery Woodson, and Pookie Powell. UCF missed 15 of its first 18 shots from the field, then hit 20 of 30 second-half shots, but never closed the scoring margin to less than 10 after halftime.

With Calvin Godfrey contributing a block, a jump shot, and two layups, the U of M raced off to a 13-3 lead over the game's first four minutes. Woodson drained a three-pointer with 1:05 left before halftime to essentially put the game out of reach at 39-23.

Trahson Burrell was the Tigers' third star off the bench with 11 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists in 28 minutes. It was the junior's second double-double as a Tiger.

King is especially pleased to be back in close-to-full form after nursing an ankle injury since late December. "I'm feeling more comfortable," he said. "Dealing with an ankle injury is a nag. I'm 100-percent now, but I've got to get comfortable doing what I was before the injury. It's doing little things that were hurting [during the injury], and they're not anymore. I just have to get comfortable. I'll stay positive and keep working."

Eleven Tigers played at least nine minutes, suggesting coach Josh Pastner's rotation may actually be expanding as the season gets later and the roster gets shorter (with the dismissal of Kuran Iverson). The Tiger bench scored more than half the team's points (56), contributing mightily to the U of M's largest point total of the season.

Daiquan Walker led UCF (off the bench) with 18 points and B.J. Taylor added 17. UCF has now lost 17 of 18 meetings with Memphis.

The victory for the Tigers sets up a showdown next Wednesday against league-leading Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane improved to 5-0 in AAC play with a win over USF today and has won seven straight games overall. Memphis then travels to New Orleans to face Tulane on January 24th.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tigers 63, Cincinnati 50

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 9:35 PM

Thursday night's tilt at FedExForum marked the precise tipping point to the Tigers' 2014-15 regular season. Fifteen games played prior to Cincinnati's arrival, and fifteen games now remaining. If there can be a breakthrough game in mid-January, a win over the program's most historic league rival is a good place to start.

Sophomore forward Austin Nichols led the way (again) with 17 points, eight rebounds, and three thorough blocks of Bearcat shots. But facing one of the most bruising teams in the American Athletic Conference, Memphis welcomed the continued rebirth of point guard Kedren Johnson (13 points and five assists in a season-high 34 minutes off the bench) and the lunch-pail work inside of senior Calvin Godfrey (eight points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes as a starter). Avery Woodson hit four of seven three-point attempts and scored 14 points in 38 minutes to help the Tigers improve to 10-6 (3-2 in the AAC).

Kedren Johnson

"We did a good job defensively," said Tiger coach Josh Pastner. "For us to win games, we need to make some threes. And we made some shots. Avery really helped loosen things up for us. And I thought Calvin Godfrey's energy and toughness were infectious. His warrior-like mentality was infectious throughout the game. Cincinnati is not a good, but a great defensive team. We had to make shots to beat them."

The win is the Tigers' first over Cincinnati since December 29, 2008, a long dry spell in a series that originated in 1968. (The teams didn't play for four seasons until joining the AAC before the 2013-14 campaign.) The Bearcats are the highest-ranked team (RPI: 30) Memphis has beaten this season.

The lead changed hands seven times in the first half before the Tigers pulled away on a 9-2 run to close the period. Woodson drained a three-pointer for a 26-22 lead, then Godfrey followed with a dribble-drive after a missed free throw was deflected his way by Nichols.

Cincinnati closed the lead to one (33-32) over the first four minutes of the second half, but the Bearcats never regained the lead. Another Woodson trey extended the Tiger lead to six (45-39) with 9:01 to play, and Nichols hit back-to-back field goals to extend the lead to 12 (53-41) with just over five minutes left. Nichols has now scored at least ten points in ten consecutive games.

But it was Johnson's second straight double-digit outing that had Pastner most effusive. "Kedren's played well," said the coach. "He's kept a good attitude, he hasn't sulked or felt sorry for himself. He's done his job, and he stayed ready. When he got his number called, he took advantage of it. It's not easy for him. He didn't play a lot earlier in the season. You have to give him a lot of credit."

"I'm just trying to keep improving on what I've been doing," said Johnson. "I'm just getting a better feel for the guys. You're always going to have adversity; that's life. It's never going to be a perfect day. You just have to stay positive. The other option is being miserable all the time."

Johnson delivered a pair of exceptional entry passes that Nichols converted, and delivered a spinning, 360-degree layup himself to the delight of the crowd of 14,916.

Memphian Octavius Ellis (Cincinnati's top scorer) was held to two points, missing four of his five field-goal attempts. The Bearcats as a team shot 39.1 percent while the Tigers hit 46.9 percent of their shots. For the 15th time in 16 Tiger games this season, the scoring margin was in double figures.

"Every game is important," said Woodson when asked if this could be considered a statement win for his team. "No game is more important than the next one. We're just trying to get better. We're still climbing a ladder."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tigers 62, Houston 44

Posted By on Sun, Jan 11, 2015 at 5:21 PM

The Tigers earned their first victory of 2015 — and ended a two-game losing streak — with a lopsided win over Houston at Hofheinz Pavilion this afternoon. Led by sophomore Austin Nichols (16 points and 8 rebounds), the U of M improved to 9-6 on the season and evened its record at 2-2 in American Athletic Conference play. The Cougars, meanwhile, fell to 7-8 (0-4), losing to the Tigers for the second time in less than two weeks. Nichols reached double figures in scoring for the ninth consecutive game.


Memphis enjoyed an 11-0 run to take an early 11-3 lead, only to watch the Cougars go on a 12-2 tear. Kedren Johnson and Trahson Burrell (the latter back in action after a one-game suspension) hit back-to-back jumpers to give the Tigers a 25-19 lead with 2:25 to play in the first half, and the Cougars trailed the rest of the game. A 13-0 Memphis run midway through the second half gave the Tigers a 47-30 lead. The final margin of 18 points makes this the 14th out of 15 Tiger games this season decided by at least 10 points. And it's the Tigers' first win of the 2014-15 campaign on an opponent's floor.

Markel Crawford started for the Tigers and scored 12 points. Johnson came off the bench for some rare playing time and contributed 10 points and four assists. Calvin Godfrey started for the first time this season, while Shaq Goodwin came off the bench (8 points, 5 rebounds). Sophomore forward Nick King returned to action after missing three games with an ankle injury.

The Tigers held the free-shooting Cougars to 25 percent from beyond the three-point arc and 34 percent overall. The U of M had 16 assists against 13 turnovers and outrebounded Houston, 35-31.

Memphis returns to FedExForum next Thursday night for a 6 pm tilt with Cincinnati.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

SMU 73, Tigers 59

Posted By on Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at 10:25 PM

An undermanned Tiger team was thoroughly declawed tonight at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, an arena where they've now lost four of their last five games. Markus Kennedy came off the Mustang bench to lead all scorers with 21 points. Yanick Moreira (15), Ben Moore (12), and Keith Frazier (12) also reached double figures on the scoreboard for SMU, which improved to 11-4 with the victory.

The loss drops Memphis to 8-6 for the season, and 1-2 in American Athletic Conference play. The Tigers hadn't been under .500 in league play since the 2003-04 season when they opened 0-2 in Conference USA.


The Tigers were missing three rotation players. Nick King (ankle injury) and Kuran Iverson (he of the now-notorious Twitter feed) did not make the trip, and junior forward Trahson Burrell never got off the Memphis bench (presumably having violated a team rule).

The Mustangs dominated the first half, shooting 50 percent (14 for 28) while holding the Tigers to 34 percent (9 for 26). Back-to-back three-pointers from Avery Woodson and Markel Crawford closed the SMU lead to seven (28-21), but the Mustangs scored the last six points of the half.

An 11-0 Tiger run closed the deficit from 18 points to seven in the second half, but Memphis never got closer, trailing by double digits the last ten minutes of the game. SMU pulled down more offensive rebounds (17) than the Tigers had on their defensive end (16). Overall, the Mustangs dominated the glass, 42-24. The Tigers actually had their second-lowest turnover total of the season, only 10 (with 11 assists).

Austin Nichols led the Tigers with 11 points, his eighth straight game in double figures. D'Marnier Cunningham came off the bench and scored a season-high 10. Junior forward Shaq Goodwin was held in check (five points and three rebounds). Earning a rare start, Chris Hawkins added nine points and a team-leading seven rebounds.

Memphis travels to Houston next, where the Cougars await Sunday afternoon. The Tigers beat Houston on New Year's Eve at FedExForum.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tulane 74, Tigers 66

Posted By on Sat, Jan 3, 2015 at 8:34 PM

After a single season apart, Memphis and Tulane got reacquainted as conference rivals tonight at FedExForum. And with a 17-4 run to end the game, the Green Wave swept away a 22-game losing streak that dated back to February 2000, when Johnny Jones was coaching the U of M and home games were played at The Pyramid. The victory was Tulane's first over the Tigers in Memphis since December 9, 1992 (when Penny Hardaway was in uniform for a team then called Memphis State).

Tulane played virtually the entire game without its leading scorer, Louis Dabney, who went to the floor with a right-leg injury two minutes after tip-off. Sophomore guard Jonathan Stark — from Munford, Tennessee — seized the starring role with 24 points, including a dagger-trey with just over four minutes to play that reduced a five-point Tiger lead to 62-60. After a layup by teammate Tre Drye (and a Pookie Powell free throw for the Tigers), Stark buried another three-pointer, giving Tulane the lead for good at 65-63.

Austin Nichols

The loss ends a five-game winning streak for the Tigers, who are now 8-5 on the season (1-1 in American Athletic Conference play). They finished a lengthy nine-game homestand with a record of 6-3.

This was the Tigers' first game of the season to be decided by fewer than 10 points. A pair of Powell turnovers after Stark's two late-game treys compromised any chances the Tigers had of buzzer-beating heroics. The sophomore point guard had nine assists — the most by a Tiger all season — but also seven turnovers.

Austin Nichols was stellar in defeat for the Tigers, scoring a career-high 28 points (making 13 of 19 field-goal attempts, including the first three-pointer of his college career), pulling down nine rebounds, and blocking four shots in 35 minutes. Junior forward Shaq Goodwin emerged from a slump, scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 32 minutes. Tiger coach Josh Pastner shortened his bench, in part because of an ankle injury to Nick King. Five players combined for merely 44 minutes and nine points in support of the Tiger starters.

"They were just tougher than us tonight," said Nichols. "We couldn't finish. We went on a streak and were feeling good. The effort was there. But then they'd go on a run. When that happens, it's tough to get on top. How we respond to losses will help define us as a team." Nichols added that there is something to be gained from his team's first tight game of the season. "It can only make us stronger, even losing on our home court. We just have to get ready for this next road trip."

The Tigers had a total of 16 turnovers that led to 24 Tulane points. Nichols and Goodwin had very little help from the other three U of M starters. Trahson Burrell made only two of 11 shots from the field, Powell was two for six, and Avery Woodson missed five of six shots three days after burying six three-pointers against Houston.

Drye finished with 14 points for the Green Wave and Jay Hook added 13, helping Tulane improve to 11-3 (2-0 in the AAC).

"It wasn't just the turnovers," said Goodwin. "They came up with the big plays in the end. That's why they got the win. All home wins matter, but this is another learning experience for us. I'm glad it's in the early part of the season. As long as we keep moving forward, we'll be fine. We'll take the loss and move on."

The Tigers travel to Texas for two games next week: SMU on Thursday, then a rematch with Houston next Sunday. They'll return to FedExForum on January 15th when Cincinnati comes to town.


Most Commented On

Top Viewed Stories

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation