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December 18, 2013

Tigers Rally Back Against Gators, Fall Short, 77-75


The No. 15 Memphis Tigers (7-2) came into the Madison Square Garden to get another big win for head coach Josh Pastner to add to his coaching resume. It wasn't going to be easy hitting the hardwood against the No. 16 Florida Gators (8-2) of the Southeastern Conference, coached by future hall of famer Billy Donovan.

The game came down to the last possession of the game but Memphis fell short and the Gators escaped by the final score of 77-75. This loss ended the Tigers' six-game winning streak.

It looked at first as if Memphis wouldn't have a chance to win this game as they got off to a slow start against the Gators. They were forcing the issue on offense while leaving key guys open on the defensive end wide open for easy shots.

At 10:16 in the first half, Memphis was down 23-11 to Florida until senior guard Michael Dixon made back-to-back shots to cut the lead to seven points with 9:52 left. Senior guard Chris Crawford was starting to make some noise as well with a three of his own to cut the deficit to four points with 8:50 left in the first half.

Senior forward David Pellom sparked the offense for Memphis, coming off the bench and leading the team in first half scoring with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting (71.4 percent) from the field. Dixon was right behind Pellom with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting (75 percent).

As for the Gators, senior forward Casey Prather and senior guard Scottie Wilbekin each had eight points at halftime. Sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith had seven points and grabbed five rebounds. Senior center Patric Young and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II each had six points.

Memphis shot 53.3 percent (16-of-30) from the field and 40 percent (4-of-10) from long range in the first half. The Gators had similar stats shooting 50 percent (16-of-32) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from long range.

The Gators went into the locker room at the half with the lead largely because they had the advantage on the glass with a 19-13 rebounding margin.

From there both teams would trade baskets all the way to the end of the first half. Florida went into halftime with a 41-38 lead over Memphis.

Memphis came out of halftime looking to take over the game. Senior guard Geron Johnson scored the Tigers' first six points in the second half as the teams continued to trade baskets.

At 8:52 in the second half, the Gators went on a 6-0 run to break the tie and increase the lead to 64-58. Then, the Gators would push the lead up to eight with a three made by freshman guard Kasey Hill.

Memphis would make a late push behind the scoring of Joe Jackson and Crawford. There just wasn't enough time for them to pull off the win.

Pastner called timeout to set up the final play but Jackson's layup attempt was swatted and Florida had escaped with a win.

The Gator's best players stepped up on the big stage. Casey Prather led the team in scoring with 22 points and he also grabbed five rebounds. Finney-Smith added 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Wilbekin and Frazier each had 11 points.

Pastner mentioned that two of his four senior guards had to play well in order for the team to pick up the victory. Well, the senior guards delivered. Senior guard Jackson led the guards in scoring with 17 points on 5-of-12 shooting (41.6 percent) from the field. He was also 6-of-6 (100 percent) from the free throw line.

Johnson finished with 13 points. Crawford added 12 points. Dixon managed just 10 points due to the three fouls he picked up in the second half, which forced him to sit down for majority of the half.

Florida had their way with Memphis on the offensive and defensive glass. The Gators dominated the boards with a 35-26 advantage and the easy baskets they got all night long went a long way to Florida's victory.

With this game out of the way, Memphis now focuses on Southeast Missouri (7-3) Saturday night at the FedEx Forum at 7 p.m. CST.


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