We learned Friday night that it takes longer to ignite the Tiger offense than most of downtown Memphis. After a delay of just over an hour — due to a massive power outage — the Tigers missed 19 of their first 24 shots in falling behind by 17 against Ole Miss. They managed to close the margin to five (76-71), but not with enough time on the clock (1:53) to earn a sixth straight win. Led by Stefan Moody's 21 points (16 of them in the first half), the Rebels improved to 9-2 and are now riding a six-game winning streak. Native Memphian Martavious Newby added 12 points and 12 rebounds. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy described Newby as "like a damn tiger, pardon the pun" during the lengthy pregame delay.
"They punched us right in the mouth in the first half," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "We didn't match their physicality. In the second half, we competed, we played hard. I thought we punched them in the mouth. The issue — a recurring theme — is our start. It's on me to make a change. We're going to have to change things up. We've started the same way since [the opening game]. Our starts have not been good."
Ricky Tarrant Jr.
The Tigers shot a miserable 26 percent over the game's first 20 minutes and were down 12 at halftime only because a desperation three-pointer by Dedric Lawson
— off a lengthy inbounds pass from Shaq Goodwin
— found the net as time expired. The U of M outscored Ole Miss (48-42) in the second half and shot considerably better (42 percent), but finished the contest with more turnovers (15) than assists (13). The loss drops the Tigers to 7-3 with one game to play (next Tuesday against IUPUI) before their American Athletic Conference opener against Tulane (December 29).
"We'll learn from [this game]," said Goodwin. "We'll watch film Sunday and figure out what we need to do to get better." Goodwin battled his way to 15 rebounds but was held to seven points (1 of 4 from the field).
"We didn't come out with any energy," said senior guard Ricky Tarrant Jr.
, who finished with a game-high 29 points and hit five of seven three-pointers, including the shot that brought Memphis within five points late in the game. "Their physicality surprised us. Double-teaming Moody in the second half isn't what brought us back. It was our energy."
Lawson logged his fifth double-double of the season (21 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks) but the Tigers got only nine points off the bench, eight of them by Trahson Burrell. K.J. Lawson
missed all six of his shots from the field and committed four fouls in 19 minutes on the floor. The Tigers' nine three pointers were one shy of the team's season high, but the 85 points Ole Miss scored are the most by a Memphis opponent this season.
"They hit some big shots," acknowledged Pastner, "some tough shots. Especially in the first half. But our starts . . . . We've tried every motivational tactic. We're going to have to do something different."
The game was the first regular-season meeting between these regional rivals since December 2006 and one of two against SEC competition for the Tigers this season. Memphis travels to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks on January 2nd.