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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.

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