For the first time in five years, the Memphis Tigers will grind their teeth through the NCAA tournament's selection show (Sunday evening) and await word — after the dance tickets have been distributed — on whether or not they've qualified for a berth in the lesser National Invitation Tournament. The Temple Owls beat the Tigers this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament at the XL Center in Hartford. Senior forward Calvin Godfrey pulled down a missed free throw by Trahson Burrell with 27 seconds left and had a shot to tie the game at 74, but he misfired. The Owls made their obligatory free throws over the game's waning moments to secure their 23rd win of the season and a date with the tournament's top seed, SMU, tomorrow.
The loss leaves the Tigers with a record of 18-14 and on the brink of finishing short of 20 wins for the first time in 15 years. On a positive note, the last three times Memphis has received an NIT bid, at least one game was played in Memphis.
All-AAC guard Will Cummings led Temple with 21 points and six assists, hitting 10 of 11 free throws, including four in the game's final two minutes. Forward Obi Enechionyia had a critical three-point play with 39 seconds left to give Temple a 74-71 lead after Burrell had tied things up on a short jumper. Enechionyia added two free throws to clinch the victory with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Burrell led five Tigers in double-figure scoring with 16 points. Shaq Goodwin added 15, Kedren Johnson 14, Godfrey 13, and Markel Crawford 12. Memphis received little off the bench, Avery Woodson and Nick King combining for five points on two-of-nine shooting.
The Tigers led, 32-31, at halftime and were up 52-50 with just over eight minutes to play. Temple's Jesse Morgan drained a three-pointer to give the Owls a 55-52 lead with 7:48 to play and the Owls never again trailed.
The Tigers missed 15 of 20 three-point attempts while the Owls shot 42 percent (8 for 19) from long range. Memphis took 18 more shots (73-55) and made six more field goals (31-25) than the Owls. But Temple converted 22 of 29 free throws while the U of M was merely eight for 14 from the foul line.
The loss officially ends the Tigers' quest for a fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance, a run achieved only once before (1982-86) in the proud history of the program.