"We battled. We competed. But we didn't execute down the stretch. I was proud of our young men. We came up short."
Memphis coach Josh Pastner's opening remarks in tonight's postgame press conference could be applied to about 10 of his team's 13 losses to date. Facing the team many still feel is the American Athletic Conference's top team, the U of M led — thanks to a Jake McDowell
layup — with less than nine minutes to play. But then there's that finishing part. Missed free throws, turnovers, and an ill-advised heave with a minute to go all contributed to the Mustangs securing their second straight season-sweep of the Tigers.
After being held scoreless in the first half, SMU point guard Nic Moore — the front-runner for AAC Player of the Year — scored 12 points in the second half, including a three-pointer as he was falling out of bounds near the end of the shot clock that tied the score at 51. "That ball wound up in Nic's hands by accident," said Pastner. "We just didn't get any breaks. It's been like that all year long. That kind of got him going. I thought we did a good job on him for the most part."
Ricky Tarrant Jr.
Ricky Tarrant Jr.
had a chance to tie the game at 63 with 1:37 to play but missed the first of two free throws. Down 63-62 with a minute to go, freshman guard Jeremiah Martin
attempted a three-pointer from the left corner that didn't so much as hit the rim. Pastner was trying to call timeout as the shot was taken, but no player on the floor saw the signal in time.
Moore converted a floater on the Mustangs' next possesion to extend the lead to three and Dedric Lawson turned the ball over as he drove into the lane looking for an open teammate. Lawson's ensuing foul on Sterling Brown at the other end of the floor was ruled intentional, giving SMU both the free throws and possession of the ball. Game over.
"I don't do moral victories," said a disconsolate Avery Woodson
. "I don't care if it's the number-one team in the country and we lose by one. It's a loss. It's tough, the ball not bouncing our way all year." Woodson hit two of six three-pointers and scored eight points, but missed his only two free throws. Overall, the Tigers missed nine of 22 shots from the charity stripe.
Lawson led Memphis with 18 points but, with only four rebounds, saw his streak of games with double-doubles end at five. Senior Shaq Goodwin
was limited to 22 minutes by foul trouble and scored only eight points. Tarrant scored 15 and dished out seven assists.
"The law of averages has not worked in our favor," said Pastner. "Maybe it will Sunday. Hopefully it will in the conference tournament. If the right Memphis team shows up, we can win three games in the conference tournament. We've been hot and cold all year. We've practiced well; our energy was great. How we practice has not been how we play, and usually that's a correlation."
SMU outscored the Tigers 42-22 inside and shot 49 percent for the game, again exposing a Tiger defense that at one point ranked near the top of the AAC.
The Tigers, now 15-13, will play their home finale — Senior Day — Sunday afternoon against Tulsa. Tip-off at FedExForum is scheduled for 3 p.m.