The UConn Huskies extinguished the Tigers' last flicker of hope for an NCAA tournament bid in winning the 2016 American Athletic Conference tournament title today in Orlando. UConn led virtually start to finish and and answered a pair of second-half Tiger runs with tears of their own. Despite committing four fouls, Shonn Miller led Connecticut with 13 points and Rodney Purvis added 12 as the Huskies improved to 24-10 with their third win over Memphis this season.
The Tigers trailed by 13 (32-19) at halftime, having missed 19 of their 25 shots over the game's first 20 minutes. But a 13-1 run keyed by a three-point shot and three free throws from Ricky Tarrant Jr.
brought the Tigers within four (36-40) with just over 13 minutes to play. UConn stretched the lead back to 17 (59-42) only to later see Memphis score nine straight points to pull within eight with 3:05 left on the clock. The Huskies countered once more, though, scoring 10 of the game's final 14 points. The win is UConn's first in the AAC final after losses the previous two seasons.
Four players for each team finished the game with four fouls. UConn shot 46 percent from the field while Memphis hit 38 percent.
Tiger forward Dedric Lawson
scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to tie the program's freshman record for double-doubles (17) set by Keith Lee in 1981-82. Tarrant was the only other Memphis player with double figures (11) on the scoreboard.
While the Huskies await their seeding and placement in the NCAA dance party, Memphis (19-15) is left to wonder if its run to the tourney final will be enough for a bid to the NIT. (An 18-14 record wasn't enough last March.) If theTigers don't land a berth in the second-tier event, today's game will have been the last in a Memphis uniform for seniors Shaq Goodwin, Trahson Burrell, and Tarrant. Speculation will begin on the status of Lawson, the AAC Rookie of the Year and now eligible to enter this summer's NBA draft.
The last time Memphis missed consecutive NCAA tournaments was in 2001 and 2002 under coach John Calipari. The Tigers reached the NIT semifinals in ’01 and won the event the next year.