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Tigers try to stir Stillwater, instead get drowned

IMG-Coach-Josh-Pastner 600As the No. 11-ranked University of Memphis Tigers headed into Stillwater, Okla. to take on the No. 7 Oklahoma State Cowboys, the spread on the game opened with Memphis a 6.5 point underdog.

Vegas is usually pretty close on their predictions, but the spread grew to 9.5 before tip-off. When a spread jumps by three points, it's usually a good indication that the gamblers are all betting one way and in this case it was on the Cowboys.

With that information in mind, no realistic True Blue fan should have had expected a win from the Tigers on Tuesday night. The real question would be how Memphis would respond to its first real test of the season against a top-ranked opponent.

The Tigers haven't performed well the last few seasons in their early season tournaments Gallagher Iba Arena has proved a tough place for any opposing team to come away with a win.

The game started at 7 p.m. and got primetime national coverage on ESPN on a night when there was virtually no other good sports match-ups scheduled. The nation was definitely tuned in to see what these two teams had to offer.

Oklahoma State's roster boasts one of the nation's top players, sophomore Marcus Smart. Markel Brown, Michael Cobbins, Le'Bryan Nash and Brian Williams rounded out the starting lineup for the Cowboys, which includes two, possibly three, NBA first round picks, with Smart being a certain lottery choice.

During the preseason, the experts heaped praise on the Memphis Tigers' senior heavy backcourt. Many had gone on the record saying that the tandem of Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon Jr., Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson might be the best in the country.

Apparently, Smart caught wind of this and was determined to set the record straight. Smart scored a career-high 39 points, which was more than Memphis' four backcourt players combined (21).

For the Tigers, the game got ugly halfway through the first half. Trailing by as many as 30 in the second half, Memphis was never able to get in a rhythm and ended up getting routed 101-80.

Like I said, a win for the Tigers probably wasn't in the cards headed into the early season marquee match-up, but getting blown out on national TV wasn't a good look for Memphis. It was truly a bit embarrassing for Coach Josh Pastner and crew.

The Tigers looked like they didn't belong on the same court with the Cowboys and that's not what anyone would have expected for a No. 7 vs. No. 11 showdown. This loss is sure to have the True Blue Nation worried, even though it's only Memphis' second game (1-1).

Many fans are hoping this isn't a foreshadowing of the 2013-14 season. But with Memphis moving into a tougher conference and adding difficult out-of-conference games (Gonzaga and Florida), it doesn't look to get any easier for the Tigers.

The Tigers look to rebound this Saturday when they take on Nichols State at the FedExForum. It would be surprising if Memphis doesn't decimate this lesser opponent on its way to gaining some momentum back after having the wind knocked out of their sails.

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