Over the weekend, the University of Memphis Tigers handled the Marshall Thundering Herd with relative ease (71-59). Considering Memphis only beat Marshall by one point at home earlier this season, the one-sided affair might have been a surprise to some folks.
However, with the Tigers overall level of play over the last two months it shouldn't have caught anyone of guard.
Fresh off their 16th victory in a row, the Tigers returned to action against the Houston Cougars last night at the FedExForum. The Cougars brought a winning record (15-9) overall into the match up, yet they had only managed to win 4 of their 11 games in C-USA competition. The Tigers were a perfect 11-0 and moved up in the Top 25 polls for the second time in as many weeks (21st AP/19th USA Today).
During the first half, Memphis was able to run out to a quick lead due to an onslaught of dunks by D.J. Stephens, Shaq Goodwin and Adonis Thomas. The Tigers led by as many as 10 points in the early going, but foul trouble for big men Tarik Black and Goodwin allowed the Cougars to keep it somewhat close. Nonetheless, Memphis led 35-28 at the break.
Over the course of the second half, Memphis grew the lead to as large as 15 points. Yet, sloppy play down the stretch led to 19 turnovers for the Tigers and gave Houston a second wind. The Cougars got as close as six points, but Memphis proved too much in the end.
The Tigers won by a final 81-74. This victory was Memphis' 17th in a row and the Tigers improved to 12-0 in C-USA. Stephens recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds). Chris Crawford also had a double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds) and was one assist from becoming the third Tiger in history to achieve a triple-double.
That assist that could have come in the waning seconds of the game on a meaningless bucket. On the final possession, with the game already sealed, Crawford inbounded the ball to a wide open Thomas under the goal, but head coach Josh Pastner instructed Thomas not to score.
Pastner takes sportsmanship very seriously and after the game he said that he wasn't aware that the basket would have given Crawford the rare triple-double. In another twist, if Adonis had scored, he also would have attained a new career high (24) in points.
Crawford said he would have definitely liked to accomplish such an extraordinary feat, but he was still happy to get the win.
Looking ahead, the Tigers are slated to play Southern Miss this coming Saturday (Feb. 23). Pastner always says the next game is the biggest game on the schedule and in this instance a win for the Tigers would clinch the regular season title.
Tiger players are on record saying that it would be important for them to seal the deal this weekend at home in front of their fans, but their ultimate goal is to go undefeated (16-0) in C-USA.
And at this point, it doesn't look like anything is going to stop them