Tigers back in regroup mode after Temple defeat

Memphis drops season series to Owls; Connecticut Huskies up next.

Terry Davis, Special to The New Tri-State Defender | 2/14/2017, 12:28 p.m.
Memphis drops season series to Owls; Connecticut Huskies up next.
Jimario Rivers guards Temple’s Obi Enechionyia (Photo: Terry Davis)

The University of Memphis Tigers will try to put a really bad beat behind them on Thursday when they travel to Harford, Conn. to take on the Connecticut Huskies.

If the Tigers come away with the victory, they will have once again avoided back-to-back losses this season. The game is set for 8 p.m. Central Time and will be shown on either ESPN or ESPN2. The network will be announced later this week.

And while this season’s Huskies are having an off year compared to some strong teams in the recent past, the game’s import for the Tigers includes the U of M’s effort to land in the top five of the American Athletic Conference and avoid playing a first round game.

For the Tigers, the road trip to Hartford will be a chance to move beyond a 74-62 drubbing by the Temple Owls at the FedExForum on Sunday. A crowd of 10,552 and a CBS Sports Network audience saw the Tigers get hit with Temple’s 25-2 first-half run.

The Tigers have been known to get off to slow starts to ball games, but that was not the case against Temple. Dedric Lawson and Markell Crawford combined to score 12 points and push the Tigers to a 12-4 lead that forced Temple to call a timeout.

The Owls made major adjustments. U of M Head Coach Tubby Smith said he had never been involved with the type of run the Owls slapped on the Tigers, who got good shots but did not make them.

“I have to compliment Temple, they beat us in the same fashion as last time,” said Smith. “They went with a different lineup and created the same type of problems that we had before –mostly matchup problems and guarding people off the dribble.

“Dedric played great, but he does need a little help shooting,” Smith said. “We shot the ball very poorly and we really didn’t defend the three (pointer) like we were supposed to. We have to get better in those areas. But, I’m really proud of how the team recovered: we were down 19, we battled back and cut it to 3 or 4, but we just couldn’t sustain it.”

The Tigers trailed 36-25 at the end of the first half, with some of them having spent a noticeable amount of time complaining about a lack of calls by the referees.

“One thing we always talk about is to just play the game and play as hard as you can, and I’m disappointed that we didn’t do that,” Smith said.”

My players talked to officials but they should have been concentrating on the game. If they’re complaining about fouls, they should concentrate on defending somebody one on one. I thought there were some times that maybe there was contact, but you have to play through that.”

The Owls were led by Shirzz Alston Jr. with 13 points, including making three of five from three-point range. Daniel Dingle dished out 6 assists in the first half and the Owls were in complete control of the game.

The Tigers fell behind by 19 points 53-34 with 13 minutes left in the game. They roared back to cut the lead down to 3 points (57-54) with 6:19 left in the game.

The Owls (14-12, 5-8 American) weathered the Tigers run by going on a 17-9 run to close the game, including two three-point baskets. The Owls had four players scoring in double-digits – Alston Jr. 13, Dingle 13, Obi Enechionyia 10, and Quinton Rose’s team high 18 points.

NOTE: Before the game, Dedric Lawson was presented with a game ball for becoming a member of the Tigers’ 1,000-point club and doing so earlier than anyone else.