Basketball teams don't go 11 minutes without scoring and win. In a game of runs Sunday afternoon at FedExForum, the Tigers conceded a 28-2 stretch to the visiting Temple Owls and endured an offensive blackout from the 8:42 mark of the first half to the 17:47 mark of the second without a field goal. They managed to close a 19-point second-half deficit to three points — thanks to a 20-4 run of their own — but were unable to catch the Owls. Two late three-pointers by Temple guard Quinton Rose sealed the win for the Owls, now 14-12 (5-8 in the American Athletic Conference).
In dropping their fifth game to Temple in the teams' last six meetings, the Tigers fall to 18-8 (8-5). Their home winning streak ends at six games and they now enter the toughest five-game stretch of the season with virtually no hope of an NCAA tournament berth.
"We shot the ball very poorly," conceded Memphis coach Tubby Smith, "and we didn't defend the three the way we should. [Temple connected on 10 of 23 shots from three-point range.] But I'm proud of the way the guys battled back."
The U of M got off to an uncharacteristically fast start, taking a 12-4 lead spurred by the play of sophomore forward Dedric Lawson
. But Lawson's field goal with 8:42 to play in the first half proved to be the Tigers' last for almost 11 full minutes. Temple tied the game at 25 with 6:30 to play and had command of the game (39-25) by halftime.
"When you're getting beat off the dribble like we did . . . they're a bigger team," said Smith in itemizing what went so wrong so fast. "You can't waste possessions, and you can't get distracted by complaining [about officiating]." The veteran coach emphasized that "bad shots are turnovers," a concession that his team wasted more than a few possessions in a game the Tigers finished shooting 38 percent from the field. Memphis made only five of 20 three-point attempts.
"They didn't do anything different, specifically," said a disconsolate Dedric Lawson. "We just didn't make shots." The younger of the team's two Lawson brothers finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Markel Crawford
added 17 points. K.J. Lawson and Jeremiah Martin combined to shoot only three of 14 from the field.
Rose led the Owls with 18 points, hitting four of five shots from long range. Daniel Dingle added 13 points and seven assists.
"We need to regroup," said Smith. "And recover mentally." The Tigers play but one game over the next ten days (February 16th at UConn), and don't return to FedExForum until February 26th, when Houston comes to town. A degree of urgency now falls on seeding for the AAC tournament in Hartford next month, as the Tigers may need to make a run there to earn attention from the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament selection committee.