Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tulsa 74, Tigers 72 (OT)

Posted By on Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 11:09 PM

Calvin Godfrey's night began with a salute all his own, the Tigers' lone senior marching to the center of the court at FedExForum for a standing ovation from the largest crowd (15,784) to watch the U of M this season. Godfrey's night ended, alas, with the reserve forward hunched over, a solitary figure on the Tiger bench, his head buried in his jersey. Another dispiriting night in the lives of the 2014-15 Memphis Tigers.

When Nick King's three-point attempt — from well beyond the top of the arc — bounced awry at the end of overtime, the Tigers fell to 17-12 and suffered their sixth loss at home, the program's most since the winter of 2004-05. For the second time in three nights, Memphis battled a first-place team from the American Athletic Conference, though without star forward Austin Nichols for virtually the entire second half. When Tiger guard Avery Woodson buried a trey to give the U of M a 39-34 lead just 46 seconds into the second half, Nichols was on the floor under the Tulsa basket, writhing in pain after falling awkwardly to the floor with an opposing player, re-injuring his right ankle. (Memphis coach Josh Pastner said after the game that Nichols will likely be sidelined through the AAC tournament in mid-March.)

Calvin Godfrey

Nichols's supporting cast played valiantly without him. Junior forward Trahson Burrell converted a short field goal following a rebound with 23 seconds left in regulation play to tie the game at 66 and force overtime. Behind the shooting of Rashad Ray (18 points and four three-pointers), the Golden Hurricane erased a nine-point deficit over the game's final seven minutes before Burrell's put-back. Burrell and Shaq Goodwin, it should be noted, missed free throws inside the final three minutes that could have been the difference. Overall, the Tigers made but 13 of 24 foul shots.

Shaquille Harrison keyed Tulsa's overtime play with a three pointer and driving layup to give the visitors a 74-69 lead with 35 seconds left. Tiger point guard Kedren Johnson buried a three-pointer with 18 seconds showing on the clock and Tulsa was unable to get the ball in bounds, which set up the final play and King's heave to end the night.

"He was wide open at the top of the key," said Burrell after the loss, which drops Memphis to 9-7 in AAC play. "We're gonna live and die with a shot like that. Especially by Nick, because he's a good shooter. We wish it had gone in. But everybody's satisfied with that shot. These are the worst games to lose, by a last-second shot."

"My heart dropped when I saw Austin go down," added Burrell. "We love him. Everybody knows he's a big part of our team. We'll just pray for a speedy recovery."

Harrison led Tulsa with 23 points, while Goodwin paced the Tigers with 17 in 44 minutes on the floor. The Tigers outrebounded the Golden Hurricane, 41-29, and grabbed 18 offensive boards, but they were outscored in the paint, 38-30, and allowed 16 points off turnovers, including four in the span of 10 seconds late in the second half that shaved a 60-51 Memphis lead to just five points.

"I can't be mad at our effort," said Goodwin. "We had a look at the end to win it. You gotta live with those results. We could have shot a whole lot better from the free throw line. That's on us as players. Regardless, we had a chance to win. Just came up a little short."

On a night the 1984-85 Tigers were honored as part of the 30th anniversary of their Final Four run, the current Tigers found themselves on the wrong side of momentum once again when the game hung in the balance. (Just as the current Tigers missed their big guy in Nichols, Keith Lee was conspicuously absent among his former teammates when they were saluted at halftime.) "We played our butts off," said Pastner in assessing his team's performance. "I feel awful that we couldn't come away with a win. Especially the last home game. In the past, there have been times when it's snowballed on us. But we've found ways to keep fighting. It's obviously tough when Austin goes down. I know injuries are part of the game, so it's not an excuse. Austin is so unselfish, so positive. So it's a double-whammy. It kills you. His great attitude, plus his play."

Johnson scored 13 points and was one of three Tigers with eight rebounds (also Burrell and King). Burrell scored 12 off the bench.

"The law of averages hasn't worked out for us this year," said Pastner, "but it will. I love this group. We've gotta find a way to dig in and get a win on Thursday and a win on Sunday."

The coach acknowledged six home losses were never part of the plan, and emphasized that better days are ahead. "It's been one of those years," he said. "Playing with a new group of guys. We probably over-scheduled at the start of the year. We've gotten so much better, though. It's just one of those years."

NOTE: The March 5th issue of the Flyer will include a cover story on the 1984-85 Tigers. The paper hits the streets on Wednesday, March 4th.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SMU 66, Tigers 57

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 11:43 PM

Facing the 21st-ranked team in the country, the Tigers would have had their hands full with a complete arsenal Thursday night at FedExForum. By the third minute of the second half, though, two starting guards (Markel Crawford and Kedren Johnson) were out of the game for good and a third (Pookie Powell) was not even in the building, nursing an illness on campus.

Despite the emaciated roster, the Tigers found themselves tied (48-48) with SMU with less than ten minutes to play after Calvin Godfrey connected on a jump shot from near the top of the key. But Larry Brown's Mustangs then reeled off a 15-4 run, capped by junior guard Nic Moore's dagger three-pointer at the 2:49 mark to secure the visitors' 23rd win of the season.

Shaq Goodwin

Crawford collapsed to the ground after a collision with Mustang forward Yanick Moreira (setting a screen) with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Replays showed Crawford's head made full impact with Moreira's left shoulder. (No foul was called.) Crawford left the court after several minutes of attention for a bloodied mouth.

Then early in the second half — before either team had scored — Johnson was called for a personal foul (his fourth of the game) under the Mustang basket, then received a technical foul for a verbal exchange with an SMU player, which counted as a fifth, disqualifying violation. "[Sterling] Brown had something to say about the way I fouled his teammate," explained Johnson after the game. "He approached me and said something I didn't like, and I reacted the wrong way. The ref heard it and gave me a tech. It's my fault; I take responsibility for it. It's never happened to me before. It was shocking."

"I'm proud of our guys," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "We battled. We competed. Obviously, we were down some players. Kedren took that silly [technical] foul, and Markel being out with his jaw [injury]. Having those two guys down, it made it tough in the second half. Nic Moore hit a couple of big shots that broke our backs. We were mixing and matching, trying everything we could. SMU's the best team in the league."

The Tigers were down just two points at halftime (30-28), despite little offense from Austin Nichols (one for eight from the field) and the Mustangs taking 18 free throws to the Tigers' three.

Shaq Goodwin had one of his best performances of the season with 17 points, seven rebounds, and a pair of blocks, helping the U of M outscore the Mustangs in the paint, 32-26. But Nichols never found his touch, missing nine of 11 shots and Avery Woodson wasn't much better (three for 11). In addition to 16 points by Moore, the Mustangs got 11 each from Moreira and Ryan Manuel.

"We needed to come up with big plays in the final stretch," said Goodwin. "We needed to come up with the plays they came up with. That's why they won the game."

"Losing Markel was a huge factor," said Nichols. "He pretty much locked down [Ryan Boatright] of UConn. We were aiming for him to help us out with Nic Moore. That was a huge loss for us. We had to fight through it. We didn't give up; that's a positive. I'm proud of my teammates for not folding."

Nick King came off the bench and scored 14 points for the Tigers, his most since mid-January.

The Tigers fall to 17-11 with the loss, which ended a three-game winning streak. They return to play Saturday night at FedExForum when Tulsa — tied atop the American Athletic Conference with SMU — comes to town. At halftime of the home finale, the 1984-85 Tigers will be honored as part of the 30th anniversary of the team's run to the Final Four.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tigers 75, UCF 65

Posted By on Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 3:47 PM

Despite never trailing over 40 minutes of regulation play, the Tigers needed five minutes of overtime to escape with a win this afternoon in Orlando. Knights' guard Brandon Goodwin converted a driving layup off the glass with 3.4 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 59, completing a 14-3 UCF run over the game's final 6:20. But after a Memphis turnover and a desperation UCF heave that went awry, the Tigers scored the first nine points of the extra session to secure their third straight victory and end a three-game winning streak for the Knights.

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Tiger forward Austin Nichols didn't start, not because of any lingering effects of his recent ankle injury, but for a violation of team rules since the Tigers last game Thursday night. He entered the game after seven minutes of play and proceeded to lead all scorers with 20 points. His putback of a missed layup attempt opened the scoring in overtime. Markel Crawford then took possession after a UCF turnover and fed Shaq Goodwin with a pass off the backboard, one Goodwin dunked with authority and a scream of delight. A Kedren Johnson three-pointer and a pair of free throws by Avery Woodson extended the lead to 68-59 with 2:28 to play and proved to be all the scoring the U of M needed.

The Tigers opened the game on an 18-2 tear, opened the second half on a 9-1 run, then welcomed overtime with that 9-0 stretch. The Knights simply didn't have the luxury of 20 minutes in overtime to mount a comeback.

Memphis shot 39 percent for the game, while the Knights hit 38 percent from the field. The teams combined to make only 12 of 54 shots from three-point range. Johnson scored 13 points and Woodson 11, while Goodwin led the Tigers with 11 rebounds.

The win improves the Tigers' record to 17-10 (9-5 in the American Athletic Conference standings, good for fifth place currently). The team's toughest four-game stretch of the season awaits, starting when league-leading SMU comes to town Thursday. After the Mustangs, the Tigers will host Tulsa (2/28), then travel to UConn (3/5) and Cincinnati (3/8).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tigers 75, Connecticut 72

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 11:38 PM

The Tigers brought some warmth — at least emotionally — to a city much in need Thursday night with a win over the defending national champions at FedExForum, the team's first home win over a club not named Jacksonville State in more than three weeks. Sophomore forward Austin Nichols, still nursing an injured right ankle, returned two games ahead of schedule to score 16 points, grab eight rebounds, and block seven shots in 38 minutes of action.

The Tigers allowed a 14-point second-half lead to shrink to two with 10 seconds to play. Freshman guard Markel Crawford made one of two free throws before Husky forward Daniel Hamilton missed a three-point attempt as the buzzer sounded. Crawford had a stellar game with 14 points, two rim-rattling dunks, and a defensive effort that held UConn star Ryan Boatright to seven points and only six field-goal attempts.

Kedren Johnson finds his man.

The win is the Tigers' third in two seasons over a defending national champ, Memphis having beaten Louisville twice in 2013-14. The program now sports an alltime record of 8-3 against title-holders, Thursday's win being just the second such victory over a team other than archrival Louisville. (Memphis beat Loyola-Illinois in 1964.)

"It was our funnest win, for sure," said Tiger guard Kedren Johnson, who played 38 minutes, scored a season-high 21 points, and delivered six assists. "It's a game of runs. We knew they were gonna make a push toward the end. You just gotta keep swinging till the final buzzer." Johnson described the defensive effort against Boatright as critical. "We knew how electric he was, the caliber player he is. It was all five of us keeping an eye on him, trying not to let him get loose."

Spurred by 13 points from Nichols over the game's first 16 minutes, the Tigers led throughout the first half. Crawford's first dunk put Memphis up 23-10 and a Johnson trey gave the U of M a 32-20 lead with 5:30 to play before halftime. The Tigers outscored UConn 11-5 over the first five minutes of the second half and seemed to be cruising before the Huskies countered with an 8-0 run sparked by a Hamilton three-pointer.

Nichols struggled offensively in the second half (one for ten from the field) and Shaq Goodwin was limited by foul trouble (he finished with eight points, five rebounds, five assists, and four blocks in 25 minutes). But Crawford got loose for another dunk inside the final minute and Johnson hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds remaining to help the Tigers (16-10) move a game ahead of UConn (14-11) in the American Athletic Conference standings. The teams are battling for a coveted bye in the first round of next month's AAC tourney.

The Huskies clearly missed last year's AAC Player of the Year, Shabazz Napier. And the Tigers welcomed the return of a contender for this year's award. "To be honest, I knew I was gonna play three days ago," said Nichols. "I didn't want it to get out, UConn find out, and set their game plan up. But I felt confident about it. I told Coach [Josh Pastner] I was ready to go.

"I want to give all the credit to my teammates. I missed a lot of shots tonight, but they have the confidence in me to keep shooting. I try to be the aggressor when I'm out there. I'm proud of the guys tonight. We gotta protect home court. We went out there with confidence and got a win."

Sophomore guard Avery Woodson played a key supporting role for Memphis with 11 points that included three field goals from beyond the three-point arc. Pastner tightened his rotation, the Tiger bench contributing a total of 31 game minutes. Reserves took a total of three shots (one make, by Trahson Burrell).

Next for the Tigers is a road game Sunday in Orlando against a UCF team they beat by 20 points in mid-January at FedExForum. They're back at home on February 26th when SMU comes to town.

2015 Memphis Tigers Football Schedule

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 10:24 AM

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Sept. 5 — MISSOURI STATE
Sept. 12 — at Kansas
Sept. 19 — at Bowling Green
Sept. 24 — CINCINNATI
Oct. 2 — at USF
Oct. 17 — OLE MISS
Oct. 23 — at Tulsa
Oct. 31 — TULANE
Nov. 7 — NAVY
Nov. 14 — at Houston
Nov. 21 — at Temple
Nov. 28 — SMU

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Did We Expect From These Memphis Tigers?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 9:34 AM

“If you’re forecasting, you’d say we’re loaded for the future: everybody’s coming back, the recruits we’re getting. But people are anxious to see how we do this year. This is a brand-new team, starting from ground zero.” — Josh Pastner, October 2014

Every team, regardless of the sport, lands in one of three areas at the end of its season. The team exceeds expectations, it manages to meet expectations, or it falls short of expectations. But how are expectations defined for a team “starting from ground zero,” as Tiger coach Josh Pastner described his 2014-15 squad last fall? Does the metaphorical bar move up (or down) once the games begin? Wherever the expectations bar is finally set, how realistic is its placement if more than half a team’s players are rookies?

As the Tigers’ winter slog continues, connecting the dots between this team’s expectations and actual performance, instead of getting clearer, has grown fuzzier with each dispiriting loss. When Austin Nichols crashed to the floor with an ankle injury against Temple on February 7th, that bar of expectations dropped a notch or two further, leaving the Tigers with an uphill climb toward a reasonable seed . . . in the NIT.

Josh Pastner

In terms of individual expectations, only three players entered the season with a reasonable barometer of performance as Tigers:

Nichols has exceeded expectations, and by some distance. Before his injury, Nichols had become the Tigers’ primary threat offensively (13.3 ppg) and a shot-blocking force in contention for American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Every time the sophomore connects on a midrange jumper, his draft stock rises. If he sticks around two more seasons, Nichols could become the fourth Tiger to earn first-team AP All-America honors.

• Shaq Goodwin’s game has picked up the last two weeks, but the season has been a disappointment for a junior named all-conference in the preseason. Expectations were for Goodwin to improve on his sophomore numbers (11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game) while serving as Nichols’s partner in the paint at either end of the floor. He’s been the Tigers’ second best player — and has looked like his more-famous namesake the last four games — but that says more about the rest of the roster than it does the former McDonald’s All-American.

Nick King has labored through various injuries (ankle, groin), started a few games, sat out others entirely. Again, if expectations are for a veteran to improve on his previous season, King has fallen short. He shows flashes of being a versatile scorer when the Tigers have the ball. But a difference-maker? Not yet.

Then there’s the rest of Pastner’s rotation: Avery Woodson, Markel Crawford, Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell, Calvin Godfrey, Pookie Powell. What were their expectations? What were Pastner’s expectations for them? (Considering the season’s downward spiral, the coach’s view would presumably be “fall short” for all six.) Twenty-five games into the season, I’m still not sure how to grade a player like Johnson. Fans — and analysts — have clamored for the Vanderbilt point guard who played a starring role two (long) years ago in Nashville. So Johnson has fallen well short of those expectations. The others? The Tigers may in fact have the Woodson, Burrell, and Crawford “as advertised.” As supporting players, they’re good enough to go 15-10, but no better.

If Connecticut blows out the home team Thursday night at FedExForum, Pastner’s seat on the Tiger bench will become positively flammable. You have to wonder about the thoughts of first-year assistant coach Keelon Lawson, as he sits a few seats to Pastner’s left for this season of discontent. Two of Lawson’s children, of course, are expected to be next season’s answers to the Tigers’ problems. Can K.J. and especially Dedric Lawson take the floor next November and make the winter of 2014-15 a distant memory? Can two siblings — each a top-50 recruit — sell thousands of tickets to FedExForum that went unsold this season? If you think Pastner’s seat is hot, consider that of a colleague and father . . . with the stakes higher for this program than any since John Calipari arrived 15 years ago.

For sanity’s sake, Tiger fans might take the approach of one Stephen Hawking, a man who recognizes a formidable challenge: “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tigers 75, USF 48

Posted By on Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 1:02 PM

The Tigers secured a much-needed — and easy — win this afternoon in Tampa, handling the American Athletic Conference's cellar-dwellers in their only meeting of the season.

Both teams shot woefully in the first half, the Bulls missing 18 of their first 22 attempts and Memphis shooting 33 percent for the period. But three-pointers by Markel Crawford, Trahson Burrell, and D'Marnier Cunningham helped the U of M to a 10-point lead (31-21) at the break.

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USF scored the first seven points of the second half to close within three (31-28) and were down four (37-33) when the Tigers took off on a 24-4 tear. A pair of treys by Avery Woodson highlighted the run and helped make this the 14th blowout victory among the Tigers' 15 wins. Woodson finished the game with 11 points.

Shaq Goodwin continues to fill what he can of the void left by Austin Nichols (out for a second game with an ankle injury). Goodwin scored a game-high 18 points a hauled in nine rebounds to lead the Tigers.

The Tiger bench combined for 32 points, Nick King leading the way with nine. Cunningham delivered the game's top highlight with a breakaway dunk midway through the second half, well after the game had been decided.

The U of M controlled the ball well, coughing up only ten turnovers against 17 assists. Sophomore guard Jake McDowell got the first start of his college career.

Now 15-10 (7-5 in league play), the Tigers will play three of their next four games at FedExForum, each against an AAC title contender. Connecticut visits next Thursday for an 8 p.m. tip-off.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

East Carolina 64, Tigers 53

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 8:21 PM

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A disappointing season spiraled further downward for the Tigers tonight in Greenville, North Carolina, where they lost to the East Carolina Pirates two weeks after beating them by 12 points at FedExForum. The difference tonight was the absence of Austin Nichols, the U of M's most consistent offensive threat and only rim protector defensively. Nichols missed the first of an estimated four games with an ankle injury suffered in his team's loss to Temple last Saturday.

The lead changed hands four times late in the second half before ECU pulled away over the game's final four minutes as the Pirates ended the contest on a 14-4 run. The win is just the second in 17 games for East Carolina against Memphis.

B.J. Tyson was the star for the Pirates with 23 points off the bench. Tyson slammed home two of three consecutive Pirate dunks early in the second half, a sequence that turned a 29-27 Memphis lead into a 33-29 advantage for the home team. Shaq Goodwin converted a three-point play with 6:24 to play to give the Tigers a brief 47-46 lead, but ECU continued to capitalize on Memphis mistakes, including a shot-clock violation coming out of a timeout with the Tigers down only two points. The U of M committed 18 turnovers while picking up only 12 assists. Without Nichols to feed offensively, the Tigers shot 36 percent (19 for 52), while ECU hit 46 percent from the field.

The Tiger rotation was compromised further when Calvin Godfrey — who started in place of Nichols — picked up two early fouls and saw his minutes squeezed before fouling out in the second half. He scored five points and pulled down seven rebounds in the limited action. Goodwin and Nick King led the Tigers with 13 points, the former pulling down 12 rebounds and the latter eight. Trahson Burrell was held scoreless and no other Tiger scored as many as ten points.

East Carolina improves to 11-13 (4-7 in American Athletic Conference play), while the Tigers fall to 14-10 (6-5). Memphis is left to compete for a top-five spot in the AAC standings, which would earn them a bye to the quarterfinals of the AAC tourney, the team's only remaining chance at reaching the NCAA tournament. The U of M next plays Saturday when it visits USF for the teams' only meeting this season.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Temple 61, Tigers 60

Posted By on Sat, Feb 7, 2015 at 3:51 PM

Temple reserve guard Josh Brown hit his first field goal of the game — a bank shot from about ten feet — with two seconds to play to give the Owls the win this afternoon at FedExForum. The loss all but crushes the Tigers' chances for a conference championship, and compounds the agony of losing their star player for what looks like two weeks, minimum.

Junior guard Kedren Johnson converted a driving layup with 7.6 seconds to play to give the Tigers a 60-59 lead, but without using a timeout, Temple got the ball to Brown with two lengthy passes for his game-winner. "I knew once it left his hands it was going in," said Tiger coach Josh Pastner. "We practice a lot of time-and-score situations, late-game stuff. I told the guys, after we score, we gotta get back. I think the excitement of the crowd going wild . . . . We did a good job of stopping Will Cummings. You gotta give him credit: he threw it to Josh Brown, and he hit a shot. A tough shot off the glass.

Kedren Johnson

Making matters worse, sophomore forward Austin Nichols fell awkwardly with 7:10 left in the game, injuring his right ankle. He left the court with help, not placing any weight on his right leg. Pastner said the initial diagnosis is an ankle sprain, but Nichols will have an MRI and is expected to miss two weeks (four games). At the time of the Nichols injury, Memphis led 52-48. Even missing the last seven minutes, Nichols led all scorers with 17 points, blocked six shots, and pulled down eight rebounds. His 78 blocks this season are the eighth-most in Tiger history.

"Not having Austin makes a big difference for us," said Pastner. "Guys know he's our best player, the anchor of our team. That was a punch in the gut to our guys. They love Austin Nichols. I was proud of our guys to rally, not be discouraged. We put ourselves in a position to win the game. Temple has more experience; they're a very good team."

Pastner acknowledged 15 turnovers hurt his team's cause. And some woeful shooting. "We had some open threes we didn't stick," said Pastner. "If we hit two of those, we win." The Tigers missed 15 of 19 shots from long range. Johnson, Avery Woodson, and Trahson Burrell combined to hit but one of 11.

The Tigers raced to a big, early lead, a Johnson jumper putting them up 22-12 with just over 10 minutes played. The lead grew to 15 (32-17) before Temple closed the deficit to 10 (38-28) at halftime. The Owls didn't lead until Jaylen Bond hit a pair of free throws to give Temple a 56-54 lead with 4:40 to play. Temple's backcourt trio of Cummings, Jesse Morgan, and Quenton DeCosey combined to score 39 points, precisely the total they've averaged for the season. Morgan hit all 10 of his free throws to help the Owls improve to 17-7 (8-3 in the American Athletic Conference). Overall, Temple hit 20 of 32 free throws while Memphis made 12 of 18.

The loss took some shimmer off a stellar game by Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin. The junior pulled down 17 rebounds — a career high — in the first half alone, and finished the game with 23, the program's first 20-rebound effort since Joey Dorsey pulled down 22 in a 2008 game against Houston. Ronnie Robinson has held the Memphis single-game rebound record (28) for 44 years.

"It's a game of runs," said Goodwin. "They made the last big shot. We can't dwell on losses. We'll start getting prepared for East Carolina tomorrow." As for his night on the glass, Goodwin said, "I guess the ball found me today. It was a magnet. But none of that matters in a loss."

Johnson scored 11 points for the Tigers in a season-high 37 minutes of action. Burrell was the only Tiger to play more than 10 minutes off the bench but missed all three of his three-point attempts.

"It stings," said Johnson. "It's a terrible way to lose. "The guys in the locker room aren't going to give up. We'll keep fighting. Toward the end of the first half, we took our foot off the pedal a bit, and they took advantage of it."

Now 14-9 (6-4 in the AAC), the Tigers travel to play East Carolina next Tuesday. They won't return to FedExForum until UConn visits on February 19th.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tigers 74, Jacksonville State 48

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 10:18 PM

The Tigers cruised to an easy win over the Gamecocks tonight in front of a sparse crowd at FedExForum, taking what amounts to a midseason reboot after an undressing at the hands of Gonzaga last Saturday. With 12 points, seven rebounds, and seven blocks, sophomore forward Austin Nichols finished in the neighborhood of the program's fourth triple-double. Shaq Goodwin led Memphis with 16 points (his most in more than two weeks) and Nick King scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Remarkably, it was just the second game this season the Tigers' preseason "big three" each scored in double figures (and the first time since November 28th).

The victory improves the Tiger record to 14-8 and gives them a modicum of momentum heading into the regular season's nine-game home stretch.

Shaq Goodwin

"We've come a long way in valuing the ball," said Tiger coach Josh Pastner of his team's 20 assists and only three turnovers. "That's gotta continue in our next nine games of regular-season conference basketball for us to have a shot, to keep winning."

The coach was thoroughly impressed with Nichols, particularly his performance on the defensive end of the floor. "He's improved immensely on the defensive end," he said. "He's a great defender. And last year he was an awful defender. Teams' number-one game plan was, 'How do we attack Austin?' He's become what D.J. Stephens was. I'm really proud of him." Nichols finished two shy of the Memphis record for blocks in a game and now has 71 for the season. (The single-season record is 107 by David Vaughn in 1993-94.)

"Coach broke it down for us," explained Nichols. "He said if the season ended today, we wouldn't make the tournament. So we have to make a huge push, these last nine games. Finish strong. He also emphasized the top five teams in the conference get a bye in the [American Athletic Conference] tournament. Our intensity [tonight] helped us out, then we were just having fun."

The fun included a 10-point lead at halftime (34-24) and a dominating performance in the paint, the Tigers outscoring the Gamecocks 46-8 near the basket. Trahson Burrell started and scored 13 points, the junior's most since December 17th. Kedren Johnson added 10, his third double-figure game of the season.

King discounted the two-game interruption to conference play, which ends Saturday when Temple comes to town. "We don't take these as conference games or not," he said. "Just the next game on the schedule. I'm just going out there calm and relaxed, doing what I can to help the team." The pride of East High has reached double figures in scoring in three straight games after sitting through the January 24th contest at Tulane.

Malcolm Drumright played all 40 minutes for Jacksonville State and led the visitors with 12 points.

Saturday's tip-off with Temple is scheduled for noon. The Owls beat USF tonight for their fourth straight win to improve to 16-7. Temple and Memphis each have three conference losses.

2015 Tiger Football Signing Class

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 2:00 PM

When's the last time a Tiger football recruiting class joined a 10-win team? Well, FDR was president. Meet the class of '15.

Tim Belles (LS) . . . Germantown, TN
Ross Burcham (WR) . . . Adamsville, TN
*Tyler Charrette (DB) . . . Martinez, CA
Marcus Childers (QB) . . . Adairsville, GA
Emmanuel Cooper (DL) . . . Arkadelphia, AR
Brady Davis (QB) . . . Starkville, MS
Keenen Davis (OL) . . . Horn Lake, MS
* Mark Dodson (ATH) . . . Memphis, TN

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* Michael Edwards (DT) . . . Madison, WI
Steven Enis (LB) . . . Fayette, AL
Jared Gentry (DL) . . . Opelika, AL
Tre Hamilton (WR) . . . Humble, TX
Darrell Henderson (RB) . . . Batesville, MS
Jamarius Henderson (RB) . . . Ozark, AL
Grayson Hubbard (K) . . . Warwick, VA
Khalil Johnson (DE) . . . Dallas, TX
Kedarian Jones (WR) . . . Dallas, TX
Peyton Jones (DE) . . . Memphis, TN
Drew Kyser (OL) . . . Opelika, AL
* Ryan Mack (OL) . . . Memphis, TN
* Arthur Maulet (DB) . . . Harvey, LA
* DeMarco Montgomery (DE) . . . Atmore, AL
Jae'Lon Oglesby (WR) . . . Central, SC
Brytain Peddy (OL) . . . Munford, TN
Tony Pollard (ATH) . . . Memphis, TN
* Darian Porter (LB) . . . Louisville, KY
Joseph Prevost (LB) . . . Marrero, LA
Kam Prewitt (DB) . . . Pinson, AL
Nick Raby (DE) . . . Cape Coral, FL
Mechane Slade (ATH) . . . Roswell, GA

* transfer

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