Thirty-nine hours after their most dispiriting loss of the season, the Tigers secured their biggest win to date. With double-doubles from Shaq Goodwin
and Dedric Lawson
(each had 20 points and 11 rebounds), the U of M never trailed Cincinnati and avoided what would have been the first three-game losing streak in seven years under coach Josh Pastner. Junior guard Avery Woodson
drained a three-pointer from the right wing after the Bearcats' Troy Caupain had closed the Memphis lead to one with 1:45 left in the game. He and Ricky Tarrant Jr.
combined to hit four free throws in the game's final 15 seconds to lock up the victory. And the win couldn't be more of a relief, particularly for Pastner.
"We just needed to start fresh," said Pastner, who spent almost the entire game seated in his chair on the Memphis bench. "Nine-game [regular] season, let's see how it goes. No regrets. Let's leave it on the floor, have fun, have toughness. New day, new season. Let the chips fall where they fall. We had a good practice yesterday, and a good team meeting. The guys responded. All credit goes to the players. That's not an easy situation to play in: two-game losing streak, tons of negativity, and a quick turnaround against a very good Cincinnati team."
Among the players who responded with the greatest impact was swingman Trahson Burrell
, back in the rotation after a one-game disciplinary suspension. Burrell contributed nine points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block . . . and could have played better (he missed 11 of 14 attempts from the field). He exuded the positive energy his coach craves after the game. "I love Coach P," said Burrell. "He's looked out for me the last two years; helped me become a man."
Freshman Craig Randall
made his first start for the Tigers (in place of Sam Craft). Pastner said he wanted to "get a look" at Randall in the interests of relieving the minutes load Tarrant has carried all season. Randall's only two points were the first two of the game. He delivered a pair of assists in 12 minutes on the floor. (Tarrant only took one shot from the field and played just 18 minutes.)
Similar to Thursday night against Connecticut, the Tigers played much better in the first half than they did in the second. But their halftime lead today (15 points) proved to be just enough for the win, despite only six field goals made in the second half. Memphis outrebounded the Bearcats, 49-38, and made 18 of 24 free throws. The Tigers committed 13 turnovers, seven fewer than in the loss to the Huskies.
Memphis improves to 14-9 for the season and 5-5 in the American Athletic Conference, while Cincinnati falls to 17-7 (7-4). The Tigers and Bearcats have split their two meetings each of the last two seasons. Caupain led Cincinnati with 17 points and Gary Clark added 15.
The U of M hits the road for its next two games, at Houston (Wednesday) and at Tulane (next Saturday).