For the first 32 minutes of playing time, tonight’s Memphis-Rice game at FedExForum was without a spark. Late January, a rainy Wednesday night, with, well, Rice in town. No spark.
Then Jacksons collided.
With the Tigers leading by 22 points and 7:31 to play in the game, Memphis guard Joe Jackson took a breakaway pass from Chris Crawford and raced toward what appeared to be a crowd-raising slam dunk. Instead, Rice guard Tamir Jackson closed from behind and slammed his Tiger namesake to the floor. (The 6-foot Joe Jackson has to get seriously elevated to dunk the ball; his fall was a long one. Landed on his left shoulder, which was still sore after the game.)
As the two Jacksons quickly rose and confronted each other under the basket — Joe acknowledged that Tamir was apologizing — three Memphis players and one excited head coach stormed onto the floor to prevent a brawl. The end result: a flagrant-two foul for Tamir Jackson (which came with an automatic ejection) and ejections of Tarik Black, Will Barton, and Trey Draper for leaving the Memphis bench.
“We’ve talked about this before,” said coach Josh Pastner after the game. “We’ve worked on it before. You can’t leave the bench.” Pastner himself ran to the scene, he explained, to break up any potential fight. (He was visibly pointing at Tamir Jackson as the players began separating.) “It’s a normal reaction. I was concerned about Joe. That was a hard foul, and he was airborne. We’re down two starters as it is, with Charles [Carmouche] and Adonis [Thomas].”
Officals after the game confirmed that all three ejected Tiger players will be eligible to play in the team’s next game (Saturday night against Marshall at FedExForum).
Joe Jackson received a technical foul for his reaction to the foul, but was not ejected. He scored seven points and dished out four assists in 27 minutes on the floor, his most action since the Georgetown game over a month ago. “It was a real hard foul,” Jackson admitted after the game. “But we’ve got each others’ back.”
On paper, the game was to be a showdown between a pair of Conference USA Player of the Year candidates. Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi was held to four points and eight rebounds (he’s nursing a sore knee). And the Tigers’ Will Barton scored but nine points and grabbed eight rebounds before his ejection.
Sophomore guard Chris Crawford led Memphis with 15 points, his third game with at least 12 this month. Antonio Barton scored 11 and Tarik Black scored 10 (hitting all five of his field goal attempts) despite being limited to 17 minutes due to foul trouble and the ejection. The Tigers pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and shot 43 percent for the game.
With Marshall’s loss to UAB tonight, the Tigers are now tied atop C-USA with Southern Miss (each team now 5-1 in league play).
“I feel we’re getting better,” said Pastner. “It doesn’t guarantee you any wins, but it guarantees you can sleep at night knowing you’re getting better as a team. We’re getting better in every area. We’ve got to make sure we do it every time we get on the floor.”