They wear uniform numbers 1 and 2 and when this Tiger team is right, Dedric Lawson
and Shaq Goodwin
form as good a one-two punch as any frontcourt in college basketball. On Senior Day and in front of the largest announced crowd of the season at FedExForum (15,289), Lawson and Goodwin each put up double-doubles to spearhead an upset of Tulsa and clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming American Athletic Conference tournament. Lawson's 27 points and 12 rebounds are his best numbers to date in AAC play and give him 14 double-doubles for the season. Goodwin played his last college game at FedExForum in style, posting 28 points and 11 rebounds for his 16th career double-double. Goodwin scored six points over the game's final two minutes with four coming via two thunderous dunks.
"We lost to Tulsa last year on Senior Day," acknowledged Goodwin. "So we had kind of a chip on our shoulder. I'm just glad we played two halves as a team. That will take us a long way."
Goodwin wasn't the only senior to make an impact. Trahson Burrell
and Kedren Johnson
made rare starts alongside Goodwin and point guard Ricky Tarrant Jr.
Burrell had 11 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes and Johnson had, far and away, his best game in a season compromised by lingering injuries: 10 points (5 of 7 shooting) in 17 minutes. The Tigers' fifth senior, walk-on Caleb Wallingford
, entered the game in the final seconds, allowing Goodwin one last ovation from the home crowd.
"[Our seniors] are not perfect," said Pastner, "but they've done a good job representing the community, the university. They've done nothing to embarrass the program. And that's not easy; we're not with them 24-7. I spend much of my time trying to educate our guys, and they've come a long way. They're all going to graduate. Kedren's married and has a child, with another one on the way. Trahson Burrell has two kids. I try and teach them about fathering, those kind of things. That's part of being a head coach at the college level."
The Tigers trailed by one (47-46) at halftime, but took the lead early in the second half and maintained it, most importantly outscoring Tulsa 12-8 over the game's final five minutes, "finishing" in modern terms, a component sorely lacking most of the winter for a team that now stands 16-13 and 7-9 in the AAC. Memphis shot a staggering 39 free throws and made 31, distancing themselves in the category from Tulsa, which made 19 of 22 from the charity stripe. The Golden Hurricane hit six of 15 shots from three-point distance in the first half but only one of 10 in the second. The loss drops Tulsa to 19-10 and 11-6 in the American.
Goodwin signed a ball for a young fan immediately after the game, a gesture that didn't surprise his coach in the least. "Shaq's had his best year with us this year," noted Pastner. "He's a good guy. He's been a good ambassador, with many, many acts of kindness that people don't know about. I get emails, and I'm very proud of him for doing those kind of things."
The win once again prevented the first three-game losing streak of Pastner's coaching career. (The Tigers have had four consecutive three-game stretches now with two defeats followed by a victory.) The U of M also clinched at least a .500 record for the 16th straight season.
Two road games remain in the regular season: at Temple on March 3rd and at East Carolina on March 6th. Memphis will play its quarterfinal game in the AAC tourney (at Orlando) on Friday, March 11th.