played like Thursday night was a goodbye game at FedExForum. The Tigers' home finale was, in fact, a send-off for three Memphis seniors: Jake McDowell, Chad Rykhoek
, and Christian Kessee.
Speculation continues, though, over the college — or professional — future for the Tigers' star sophomore, who became the first Memphis player to accumulate 500 points, 300 rebounds, and 100 assists in a single season. The younger of the team's two Lawson brothers went to the floor after taking a Tulane player's shoulder to his jaw early in the second half. He missed less than a minute of action and finished the contest with 29 points (his most in seven games), eight rebounds, and four assists.
"[Dedric] does more for us, I'm sure, than anyone does for any other team in our league," said Tiger coach Tubby Smith after his team ended a four-game losing streak and improved to 19-11 for the season. "I'm proud of [the team] competing, especially on Senior Night. It was good to see us score some points, and get the ball up the court in transition. It started with our defensive intensity."
That defensive intensity wasn't evident during a somnolent first half in which the American Athletic Conference's cellar dwellers outscored the Tigers, 39-34. Dedric Lawson hit six of his eight shots in the period, but his teammates were a dreadful six for 24.
Smith let the players know how dreadful they looked at halftime. "I've been concerned for a while about our lack of discipline, our lack of execution," he said. "Sometimes you have to get emotional to get your point across."
The Tigers took the lead on a three-point play by Jeremiah Martin
three minutes into the second half. They stretched a five-point lead to 18 over a five-minute stretch midway through the half, which allowed the team's reserves — including the ever-popular McDowell, the team's only four-year player — to take the floor and finish the home campaign with a victory. The crowd's audible affection for McDowell impressed Dedric Lawson. "That's about relationships you build," said the 19-year-old forward. "Everyone would want to feel that." McDowell played 16 minutes and scored four points, a season-high for the Christian Brothers alum.
scored 13 points and Martin added 12 as the Tigers improved to 9-8 in AAC action, with one game (Saturday at 14th-ranked SMU) left on the regular-season schedule. Tulane fell to 5-24 (2-15 in the AAC). Melvin Frazier led the Green Wave with 16 points.