The Tigers erased a 12-point deficit over the game's final ten minutes to steal a win from the USF Bulls Tuesday night at FedExForum. Lester Quinones
drained a three-pointer from the right corner with just over a minute to play to break a 55-55 tie. When D.J. Jeffries
deflected Caleb Murphy's off-balance attempt in the closing seconds, the Tigers secured their second win in league play to improve to 6-4 overall and 2-1 in the American Athletic Conference.
The Bulls' top scorer, David Collins, put only four points on the board and junior forward Alexis Yetna (11.5 points per game) missed the contest with a lower leg strain. Murphy almost made up for both with 20 points, hitting nine of 18 shots from the field. USF dropped to 5-4 (1-2).
Struggling to find offensive rhythm over the season's first month, the Tigers incorporated a new offense — "the Lion set" — based on player motion and perimeter passing, with a big man in position for offensive rebounding. Results can be considered mixed, the Tigers having scored only nine more points than they did in their last outing, a loss to Tulsa.
USF erased a 25-23 halftime deficit quickly, with a 12-5 run to open the second half. But a 14-2 Tiger run set the final five minutes up for high drama, even in a virtually empty arena. A Quinones trey put Memphis up 51-48. An Alex Lomax
steal led to a Quinones layup and a 55-52 lead with two minutes remaining. A Murphy trey pulled USF within a point (58-57) but it would prove to be the final bucket of the game, even with a Tiger shot-clock violation giving the visitors final possession.
Quinones led the Tigers with 13 points. DeAndre Williams
added 12 and Landers Nolley
10. As for the new emphasis on passing, Memphis logged 17 assists on 24 made field goals, though the "flow" of the game would be described as frenetic, at best.
The Tigers will turn the calendar to 2021 facing five of seven January games on the road. They travel to Temple to play the Owls Saturday (tip-off at 11 a.m.). They then face UCF in Orlando (on January 5th) before their next home game (SMU, January 14th).