Sunday, February 26, 2017

Houston 72, Tigers 71

Posted By on Sun, Feb 26, 2017 at 7:44 PM

The Tigers' tailspin continued Sunday afternoon at FedExForum. When Jeremiah Martin's desperation shot was partially blocked as time expired, Memphis left the court with a fourth consecutive defeat, a .500 (8-8) record in the American Athletic Conference, and the likelihood of having to win four games in four days at the AAC tournament in Hartford for a cherished NCAA tournament bid.

Freshman forward K.J. Lawson summarized the latest defeat for each of his teammates, and much of the remaining Tiger fan base: "Every loss is the same. I don't like losing. I treat it like someone died. I'm a sore loser."

"Losing four in a row is something I haven't done, ever," said K.J.'s brother, Dedric Lawson. "It's not the end of the world. We've just got to turn it around, get a winning streak going. Stay grounded. Don't get too low."
Jeremiah Martin - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jeremiah Martin

A likely first-team all-conference pick, Dedric earned his 19th double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds, but missed seven of ten shots from the field and an important free throw that would have tied the game at 69 with 1:51 to play. The sophomore forward was to receive the ball on the game's final play, but K.J. chose to target Martin with his brother in traffic near the basket.

The Cougars led for the first 36 minutes of the game, by as many as 13 in the first half, and by five (40-35) at halftime. But Memphis closed the deficit, and with reserves Jake McDowell, Craig Randall, and Christian Kessee on the floor for a key first-half stretch after Dedric Lawson went to the bench with two fouls. Markel Crawford hit three-pointers — one from the left side, the second from the right — on consecutive Tiger possessions to tie the game at 66 with just over four minutes to play. A Jimario Rivers free throw gave the U of M its only lead, 67-66, with 3:22 to play.

But Cougar guard Rob Gray (17 points) converted a three-point play and Damyean Dotson (31 points) hit a jumper to give Houston a 71-68 edge. Dedric Lawson converted a three-point play of his own to tie the score, but Rivers was called for hand-checking Dotson with three seconds to play. Dotson made the second of his two free throws for the decisive point.

Tiger coach Tubby Smith said he was too far away to judge the accuracy of the foul call on Rivers, but acknowledged his players are taught to back away when a player brings the ball to waist level, to avoid precisely the foul Rivers was given.

"We had no answer for Dotson," said Smith. "We did some good things, but we just didn't finish the right way." When asked about his team's losing skid, and how it might be reversed, the coach seemed to be in search mode.

"When the pressure's on," he asked, "how are you going to respond? We've come close. But we haven't had that intensity level we've needed. For the most part, our guys give us all they have. Their attitudes have been good. I've probably been a little more chippy."

K.J. Lawson led the Tigers with 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Martin had 16 points and five assists. The Tigers shot better from the field (48 percent) than did Houston (42 percent), but the Cougars made nine treys to the Tigers' five.

Houston has now won seven of eight games and improves to 20-8 (11-5 in the AAC). The Tigers have lost five of six and are now 18-11 overall.

The Tigers host Tulane Thursday night before finishing the regular season with a trip to SMU on Saturday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

#15 Cincinnati 87, Tigers 74

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 8:06 PM

Say what you will about Josh Pastner's seven years as coach of the Memphis Tigers, but his teams avoided losing streaks. In falling to the 15th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats Thursday night in Ohio, the Tigers lost their third straight game, the first such streak since March of 2005 (John Calipari's fifth season at the helm). Not that long ago 17-6, Memphis fell to 18-10 and are now just a game over .500 (8-7) in American Athletic Conference play.

In winning their 25th consecutive home game, the Bearcats improved to 25-3 and remain in contention (with SMU) for the AAC title with a 14-1 mark.

Cincinnati dominated early, hitting 16 of its first 24 shots to take a 19-point lead (51-32) at halftime. The Bearcats led by 17 with just under 12 minutes to play before the Tigers found a groove of sorts. Spurred by sophomores Dedric Lawson (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Jeremiah Martin (23 points, 11 assists), the Tigers enjoyed a 20-9 stretch and closed Cincinnati's lead to six points (75-69) on a three-point play by Martin with 5:17 left on the clock. But the Bearcats scored the game's next eight points to pull away for good.

The Tigers outshot Cincinnati from the field (54 percent to 49 percent), but the bigger, more aggressive Bearcats got to the foul line 28 times and made 23 free throws, while Memphis was only 8 for 12 from the charity stripe.

Kyle Washington led Cincinnati with 16 points and Jacob Evans added 15.

K.J. Lawson scored 15 for the Tigers while Jimario Rivers added 12. Senior center Chad Rykhoek returned to action for Memphis after missing 16 games with a dislocated ankle. Junior Markel Crawford, the team's second-leading scorer, did not score in the game and was limited by three fouls.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Memphis Tiger Super Sophs

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Dedric Lawson is only the 10th Memphis men's basketball player to score 1,000 points in his first two seasons as a Tiger. Making the achievement even more impressive, Lawson is only the sixth Tiger to join the 1,000-point club during his sophomore season (and still shy of his 20th birthday).
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Dedric Lawson

Win Wilfong played two seasons at Missouri before transferring to Memphis and scoring 1,203 points in two seasons. The great Larry Finch wasn't eligible to play as a freshman (1969-70), and Penny Hardaway was academically ineligible for his freshman campaign (1990-91). Omar Sneed played two seasons in junior college before scoring his 1,000th point for Memphis in 1999.

So where does Lawson rank among the five other 1,000-point sophomores at the U of M?

6) Darius Washington (2004-06) — Washington will forever be remembered in these parts for missing a pair of free throws after time expired in the 2005 Conference USA championship game at FedExForum, shots that would have sent the Tigers to the NCAA tournament. (Having lost 14 previous games, that team didn't deserve a bid.) D-Wash manned the point for a great 2005-06 team, one that won 33 games and made the first of four consecutive appearances for the program in the NCAA Sweet 16 (losing to UCLA in a regional final). Washington was a shoot-first playmaker who would be considerably higher on the Tiger career scoring chart had he stayed for a third (let alone fourth) season.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Will Barton

5) Will Barton (2010-12) — Barton was named C-USA's Player of the Year after the 2011-12 season, one in which he led the league in scoring (18.0 points per game). Few players as slender as Barton have been as productive in the paint. He was the rare college player who could score off-balance . . . consistently. A member of two NCAA tournament teams, Barton was part of 51 wins in his two seasons as a Tiger. Now a member of the Denver Nuggets, he'll soon become just the ninth former Tiger to play in 300 NBA games.

4) Dedric Lawson (2015-17) — Lawson's success as a college player is staggering when you consider he could well be a freshman this season, having graduated a year early from Hamilton High School so he could jump-start his Tiger career. His 34 career double-doubles already rank sixth in Memphis history. Through 60 games, Lawson has averaged 17.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. A leading contender for American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Lawson is the only player on this list not to appear (yet) in the NCAA tournament.

3) Lorenzen Wright (1994-96) — Wright's life ended tragically in 2010, after the center played in more NBA games (778) than any other former Tiger. But I remember most vividly the freshman rim-shaker, screaming up to the Pyramid cheap seats after another two-handed slam. The Tiger program had suffered a downer in 1993-94 following Penny Hardaway's departure for the NBA.Wright was a college force from the first time he took the floor for coach Larry Finch. He led Memphis in both scoring and rebounding each of his two seasons, accumulating 31 double-doubles in 64 games while averaging 16.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. As a freshman, he helped Memphis to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.

2) Elliot Perry (1987-89) — One of two Tigers to score 2,000 career points, Perry led the Tigers in assists each of his four seasons and scoring three times. (Dwight Boyd was the top scorer during Perry's freshman season of 1987-88.) With his goggles and knee-high socks, Perry would have been a crowd favorite for his presentation alone. But he proved to be an exceptional pace-setting point guard. Twice named first-team All-Metro Conference, Perry is second in career steals and fifth in career assists at Memphis.

1) Keith Lee (1981-83) — Lawson's double-double total is impressive until you consider Lee had 37 by the end of his sophomore season, then had 37 more as a junior and senior. The four-time All-America scored 1,113 points as an under-classman, then 1,295 as an upper-classman, helping the Tigers reach the Sweet 16 four years in a row, including the 1985 Final Four. Over the last 32 years, no Memphis player has come within 100 points of Lee's school scoring record (2,408 points) or within 100 rebounds of his rebounding mark (1,336). Over his first two seasons, Lee averaged 18.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

UConn 65, Tigers 62

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 10:24 PM

This one will linger.

The Tigers played in Hartford, Connecticut, Thursday night — site of the American Athletic Conference tournament in three weeks — and managed to build a 15-point lead on the UConn Huskies, winners of five of their last six games entering the contest. But they suffered a dreadful collapse over the game's final eight minutes, in particular a 12-2 Husky run to end the game. In losing consecutive games for the first time this season, Memphis falls to 18-9 and 8-6 in AAC play while UConn improves to 13-12 (8-5).

The Tigers led for 34 of the game's 40 minutes, by 14 at halftime, and by seven (60-53) with less than five minutes to play. But Husky guard Jordan Adams drained a floater from the right elbow with 1:50 left on the clock to seize the lead (61-60) for UConn. The U of M regained possession after a turnover, but Dedric Lawson misfired at the end of the shot clock. Husky reserve Christian Vital escaped on the inbounds play, receiving a pass and dunking the ball for the decisive points. The Tigers missed a pair of three-point attempts on their final possession, with Jimario Rivers flushing an offensive rebound for the Tigers' final points.

The win gives UConn a split of the teams' two games this season, Memphis having won at FedExForum on January 5th.

Craig Randall starred off the bench for Memphis, scoring 11 first-half points and 13 for the game, his most since November 26th. Markel Crawford added 13, Dedric Lawson 12, and Jeremiah Martin 11 for Memphis.

Adams led UConn with 19 points.

Now for the lingering part. The Tigers don't play again until they visit 18th-ranked Cincinnati next Thursday (February 23). They don't return home to FedExForum until Houston visits on February 26th.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Temple 74, Tigers 62

Posted By on Sun, Feb 12, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Basketball teams don't go 11 minutes without scoring and win. In a game of runs Sunday afternoon at FedExForum, the Tigers conceded a 28-2 stretch to the visiting Temple Owls and endured an offensive blackout from the 8:42 mark of the first half to the 17:47 mark of the second without a field goal. They managed to close a 19-point second-half deficit to three points — thanks to a 20-4 run of their own — but were unable to catch the Owls. Two late three-pointers by Temple guard Quinton Rose sealed the win for the Owls, now 14-12 (5-8 in the American Athletic Conference).

In dropping their fifth game to Temple in the teams' last six meetings, the Tigers fall to 18-8 (8-5). Their home winning streak ends at six games and they now enter the toughest five-game stretch of the season with virtually no hope of an NCAA tournament berth.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tubby Smith

"We shot the ball very poorly," conceded Memphis coach Tubby Smith, "and we didn't defend the three the way we should. [Temple connected on 10 of 23 shots from three-point range.]  But I'm proud of the way the guys battled back."

The U of M got off to an uncharacteristically fast start, taking a 12-4 lead spurred by the play of sophomore forward Dedric Lawson. But Lawson's field goal with 8:42 to play in the first half proved to be the Tigers' last for almost 11 full minutes. Temple tied the game at 25 with 6:30 to play and had command of the game (39-25) by halftime.

"When you're getting beat off the dribble like we did . . . they're a bigger team," said Smith in itemizing what went so wrong so fast. "You can't waste possessions, and you can't get distracted by complaining [about officiating]." The veteran coach emphasized that "bad shots are turnovers," a concession that his team wasted more than a few possessions in a game the Tigers finished shooting 38 percent from the field. Memphis made only five of 20 three-point attempts.

"They didn't do anything different, specifically," said a disconsolate Dedric Lawson. "We just didn't make shots." The younger of the team's two Lawson brothers finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Markel Crawford added 17 points. K.J. Lawson and Jeremiah Martin combined to shoot only three of 14 from the field.

Rose led the Owls with 18 points, hitting four of five shots from long range. Daniel Dingle added 13 points and seven assists.

"We need to regroup," said Smith. "And recover mentally." The Tigers play but one game over the next ten days (February 16th at UConn), and don't return to FedExForum until February 26th, when Houston comes to town. A degree of urgency now falls on seeding for the AAC tournament in Hartford next month, as the Tigers may need to make a run there to earn attention from the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

2017 Memphis Tigers Football Schedule

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 10:28 AM

* August 31 (Th.) — LA-MONROE

* Sept. 9 — at UCF

* Sept. 16 — UCLA


* Sept. 30 — at Georgia State

* Oct. 6 (Fr.) — at UConn

* Oct. 14 — NAVY

* Oct. 19 (Th.) — at Houston

* Oct. 27 (Fr.) — TULANE

* Nov. 3 (Fr.) — at Tulsa

* Nov. 18 — SMU


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tigers 66, Tulsa 44

Posted By on Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 9:30 PM

What a difference a Markel Crawford makes. Three days after going scoreless in the Tigers' 15-point loss at UCF, the junior guard ended a three-game slump with 19 points (on 8 of 13 shooting) to help Memphis avenge a 10-point loss at Tulsa less than a month ago. Having scored 81 points in that win, the Golden Hurricane had its total virtually cut in half and fell to 12-11 for the season (6-5 in the American Athletic Conference). Memphis improves to 18-7 and 8-4 in the AAC.

"I've just got to be a more consistent player," said Crawford after the game. "It hurts the team when I don't produce, makes it hard on them. I've got to come out with an aggressive mindset, no matter where we are, and stay focused. Once I see that first shot go in, my mindset is that everything will go in."
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Dedric Lawson

After falling behind UCF 14-0 last Saturday, the Tigers found themselves down 12-2 less than six minutes into Tuesday night's game. Crawford acknowledged the slow starts have to end. "They put us in a hole," said Crawford, "and it takes more energy just to get back in the game."

That energy was found off the bench, of all places, with Christian Kessee and Keon Clergeot draining three-pointers on consecutive possessions midway through the first half. When K.J. Lawson added a long-distance shot himself, the Tigers had closed from a seven-point deficit (15-8) to a single point down (18-17). A Kessee jump shot (for two) gave the Tigers their first lead (19-18) with 8:32 left in the first half. A 13-2 run to end the half gave the U of M a 32-27 lead at the break.

"Christian, Keon, and Craig [Randall] have been shooting well in practice," said Smith, "so I thought it was a good time, down eight or nine. The energy level just wasn't there. It paid dividends in the second half. We were consistently good defensively tonight. That's why we won the game."

Tulsa made only four of 22 shots from three-point range and shot 32 percent overall. Junior Etou led the Golden Hurricane with merely nine points.

Sophomore forward Dedric Lawson scored 14 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the 33rd double-double of his career, a figure that ties him with James Bradley for sixth in Tiger history. He also became the 51st Memphis player to score 1,000 points in his career (and just the 10th to do so in his first two seasons). His older brother, K.J. Lawson, added 12 points.

Smith admitted to some "fiery" practices since the UCF loss. "Most people are not self-motivators," he said. "They need some pushing and pulling. You can get in a rut. We were so concerned about energy levels, minutes. I'm not going to worry about it in practice any more. You gotta practice the way you play. That's my fault. Our starters don't get much of a break in practice. It's not like they weren't working hard. It's just the intensity level. More importantly, we're back to some fundamentals in our defensive principles."

The Tigers will have a chance to avenge another loss come Sunday when Temple visits FedExForum. The Owls handled Memphis in Philadelphia on January 25th, winning 77-66. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Tiger Football Steals February

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Somehow, some way, University of Memphis football managed to steal a week in February from University of Memphis basketball. Tubby Smith's squad merely split a pair of games in Florida last week.  At least in terms measured by the likes of and 247 Sports, second-year Tiger football coach Mike Norvell has secured the finest recruiting class in the program's history (or at least as far back as rankings history goes). And this is a very big deal if you like fall Saturdays at the Liberty Bowl. For it can be said that the finest college football programs have two things in common: a big day in January (at a bowl game) and a big day in early February.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Mike Norvell

When Memphis opens its season on September 2nd against UL-Monroe, count on true-freshman Obinna Eze being among the five starting offensive linemen. You could well see two more fresh-out-of-high-school players in the starting lineup: receiver Nick Robinson and cornerback T.J. Carter. Each of these young men enters the program as four-star recruits (out of a magic five), and such sought-after talent does not arrive on campus with room for a redshirt in the locker.

True freshmen play major college football under one of two circumstances: the team's roster is so thin, they're forced onto the field . . . or they are exceptionally talented. We've seen plenty of the former scenario over the years with the U of M program. (Remember when Larry Porter didn't have a full allotment of scholarship players?) But the latter — exceptional talent — is something to anticipate.

It's a good time to remember that quarterback Paxton Lynch was redshirted before growing into a first-round NFL draft pick. Anthony Miller redshirted before becoming the most prolific single-season receiver in Tiger history. Neither was a three-star recruit, to say nothing of four. And Memphis has three of the four-star studs on the way.

A select few college football programs (the haves) are magnets: the top recruits in the country actively seek membership in their annual campaigns for league and national championships. Most college football programs (the have-nots) are fishermen: they cast lines hither and yon, hoping for a nibble from top recruits, settling for smaller fish more often than not.

The Memphis program is hardly a magnet. Not yet. Many more wins and a few league championships must be secured before remotely considering such status in these parts. But Norvell has landed at least three players who would have been welcome on most SEC and Big 10 campuses, three members of a class considered by some to be the best of any program outside the "Power Five" leagues. Add them to a team led by Miller and a quarterback (Riley Ferguson) who threw more touchdown passes as a junior than Lynch did as a senior, and you have as many reasons for optimism as Memphis football could count in a generation or two.

It's early February. An over-achieving basketball team under the guidance of a wise, accomplished coach is worth supporting. Twenty wins and postseason play (if only the NIT) are possibilities. As March Madness approaches, though, consider the strides taken last week by the Tiger football program significant, and in the direction of an important football game — someday soon — in early January.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

UCF 72, Tigers 57

Posted By on Sat, Feb 4, 2017 at 6:27 PM

UCF ended a four-game losing streak — and an 11-game skid in its series with Memphis — by beating the Tigers Saturday in Orlando. The Knights scored the first 13 points of the game and never saw their lead reduced below nine points to win their first game over the U of M since January 18, 2012. Matt Williams led four Knights in double-figures with 20 points and UCF shot  53 percent from the field to improve to 15-8 for the season and 6-5 in the American Athletic Conference. The loss drops Memphis to 17-7 (7-4).

The Tigers shot a dreadful 30 percent from the field and even worse (5 for 23) from three-point range as they were forced into comeback mode merely five minutes into the game. Sophomore forward Dedric Lawson scored 28 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season. No other Tiger scored as many as 10 points. Freshman K.J. Lawson scored eight points and had 11 rebounds.

Down 17 points at halftime, the Tigers managed to pull within nine (64-55) on a three-pointer by Dedric Lawson with two minutes left in the game. They would get no closer.

B.J. Taylor scored 16 points for UCF and Tacko Fall added 15.

The Tigers return home Tuesday night to face Tulsa, a team that beat them by ten points in Oklahoma on January 11th.

NOTE: Dedric Lawson needs five points to become the 51st Tiger to score 1,000 for his career. He aims to join an exclusive club of just nine other Tigers to score 1,000 in their first two college seasons. The last to do so was Will Barton (2010-12).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tigers 85, USF 75

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 8:09 PM

Playing the first of two games in three days in the Sunshine State, the Tigers enjoyed a relatively easy win over South Florida. With the loss, the Bulls fall to 0-10 in the American Athletic Conference. This was a game in which the Tigers had far more to lose than win, and they banked their 17th victory of the season with few, if any, bruises.

Sophomore forward Dedric Lawson led the way with 29 points and 9 rebounds. His older brother, K.J. Lawson, added 18 points and 10 rebounds. The brothers scored 29 of the Tigers' 35 points in the first half, in helping Memphis to a five-point lead at the break.

Craig Randall and Markel Crawford hit three-pointers on consecutive Tiger possessions to give the U of M a 50-37 lead eight minutes into the second half, plenty of cushion to secure the team's seventh win in ten AAC games. Memphis is now 17-6 overall, while USF fell to 6-15.

Sophomore point guard Jeremiah Martin scored 15 points to help the Tiger cause and freshman guard Keon Clergeot added 9 points off the bench. Memphis shot 47 percent from the field, hit nine of 20 from three-point range, and made 20 of 24 free throws.

Freshman forward Malik Fitts led the Bulls with 28 points. USF shot 52 percent from the field.

The Tigers now travel north to Orlando and will face UCF Saturday. Memphis beat the Knights, 70-65, at FedExForum last month.
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