Josh Pastner loves to describe how hard winning is. And how no game is a gimme in an improved Conference USA. It's time Tiger fans start listening.
Any chance the Tigers had at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament likely died tonight in Houston. In losing to one of C-USA's bottom-feeders, Memphis falls to 8-4 in league play (20-7 overall). The Tigers now have one more conference loss than UTEP, a team the Tigers will face in El Paso a week from today. (The U of M has now lost its last four games in Texas, Josh Pastner's native state.)
The Owls took an early lead, and stretched it to double figures (26-15) 13 minutes into the game. The Tigers trailed by nine at halftime, but then never mounted a serious comeback in front of a Tudor Fieldhouse crowd that was a fraction of the size they're used to seeing at FedExForum.
Tonight's game was the first loss Memphis has ever suffered at the hands of Rice (a series of now eight games). The Owls improve to 12-14 (4-8 in C-USA). Tamir Jackson led Rice with 20 points while Arsalan Kazemi added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Tigers shot dreadfully, missing 14 of 17 three-point attempts and shooting 35 percent overall. Tarik Black failed to make a field goal and fouled out after playing only 19 minutes. (Backup center Will Coleman was on the floor for four minutes and didn't score.) With 14 points, Antonio Barton was the only Tiger to reach double figures. (Will Barton entered the game having scored at least 11 in ten straight games, but shot 3 of 11 and finished with 8 points.)
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Memphis. The Tigers will host Houston at FedExForum Tuesday night. Tip-off at 8 p.m.