The last time the University of Memphis's basketball team met the Oklahoma State University Cowboys, OSU's sophomore guard Marcus Smart had a career day scoring 39 points, more than all four of Memphis' senior guards combined. At one point in the first half of that game, Smart was outscoring the Tigers by himself.
So it was easy to see that containing Smart would be the focal point of the rematch in Orlando on Sunday evening (Dec. 1). During the first half, Memphis was able to do just that but still trailed by 10 (42-32) at halftime and it looked like the Tigers might be setting themselves up for a big disappointment.
Then it happened. The Tigers rallied in the second half Memphis outscored OSU 41-26 and defeated the No. 5 Cowboys 73-68 to win the Old Spice Classic.
It was a huge win for the Tigers. They were able to redeem themselves after getting throttled by OSU a couple weeks ago. Memphis also defeated their first top 25 team with Josh Pastner as head coach.
A weight has definitely been lifted for the young coach, who has been criticized for never winning the big games, despite winning 27-plus games each of his years as Memphis' coach.
Memphis will undoubtedly jump in the polls that will be released on Monday, although the biggest gain might be in confidence. The Tigers are loaded with talent and now they know that they are capable of beating a top tier team. And that's something that they hadn't done since the NCAA tournament in 2008 (beating No. 3 UCLA).
This will be a trademark win for Pastner and his Tigers headed forward and the True Blue Nation has to be thrilled to see their hometown team finally win a "big" game.
The road to the championship
Over the last few seasons, The University of Memphis' basketball team has had high hopes and high preseason rankings headed into the year. This season was no different.
The Tigers started the year ranked in the top 25, and climbed as high as No. 11 before they faced off against No. 7 Oklahoma State. It was a game Memphis would want to forget and the embarrassing loss would drop the Tigers to No. 21 in the polls.
As predictable as the high hopes and preseason rankings has been Memphis' poor showing in their early season tournaments. Yet, this time around the Tigers had a little added motivation headed into the Old Spice Classic in Orlando – a possible rematch with Oklahoma State.
In the first round, Memphis was slated to play Sienna on Thanksgiving Day. The Tigers started off slow, but eventually steamrolled Sienna by a final of 87-60.
Next up, the Louisiana State Tigers. Memphis actually trailed LSU at halftime and for most of the second half. LSU was shooting a remarkable 78 percent during the second half, but Memphis continued to hang around. Those percentages aren't realistic for any real length of time and eventually LSU cooled off. Memphis stayed consistent pulling out a 76-69 victory.
The win sent the Tigers to the championship game of the Old Spice Classic and the stars would align as Oklahoma State also won their two games. The stage was set for a rematch Sunday night (Dec. 1).
And now we know how they turned out.
NOTE: THE Tigers return home Dec. 7 to face Northwestern State