Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tigers 54, Connecticut 53

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 10:44 PM

It's the biggest win of the season (at least so far). When Shaq Goodwin's 10-foot jumper fell through (finally), and Ryan Boatright's off-balance attempt at the buzzer did not, the Tigers secured their 18th win of the season, a sweep of the defending national champions, and hope for the fifth and final bye in next week's American Athletic Conference tournament (to be played, of course, in Connecticut).

Memphis had no business winning tonight's game in Storrs. The Tigers played without star forward Austin Nichols, sidelined (again) with a right-ankle injury. The Huskies honored their seniors before the game, including Boatright, the AAC's top scorer. The home team shot 22 free throws to the visitors' two. (The visitors' two!) But thanks to a breakout performance by junior forward Trahson Burrell and 28-percent shooting from the field by UConn, Memphis was able to end a two-game losing streak and improve to 10-7 in AAC play this winter. Burrell scored a season-high 22 points, the last four coming after he left the game briefly with what appeared could have been a serious, yes, ankle injury.

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The Tigers dominated early with long-distance marksmanship from Burrell and Kedren Johnson, taking a 22-9 lead midway through the opening half. But after Calvin Godfrey was charged with a flagrant-2 foul on the Huskies' Rodney Purvis, UConn finished the opening period on a 10-2 run to tie the game at 26.

Neither team gained separation in the second half despite the growing free-throw disparity in UConn's favor. Goodwin drew his fourth foul with more than 14 minutes to play but dodged a fifth long enough to deliver his game-ending heroics. The game-winning play was preceded by a UConn shot-clock violation, forced in part by a Burrell block. The 54 points are the fewest Memphis has scored in a victory this season.

Johnson contributed 10 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, while Godfrey scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

If the Tigers beat Cincinnati (in Ohio) Sunday in their regular-season finale, they'll secure that valued bye in next week's AAC tourney. Should they lose to the Bearcats, they'll need Temple to beat UConn in Philadelphia for the bye. Both Memphis (18-12) and UConn (17-12) need to win the AAC tourney to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

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