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January 17, 2014

Tigers Fall at Home to UConn, 83-73

The No. 17/17 Memphis Tigers (12-4, 3-2 AAC) came into the FedEx Forum on Thursday night looking to add another marquee win to their NCAA tournament resume. Going up against the Connecticut Huskies wasn't going to be easy as the Tigers had to deal with senior guard Shabazz Napier and junior guard Ryan Boatright.

Memphis failed to make big plays down the stretch on both ends of the basketball. As a result, the Connecticut Huskies (14-3, 2-2 AAC) were able to get a win on the road in front of Tiger Nation by the final score of 83-73.

After the game, Coach Josh Pastner talked about what went wrong for his team in the second half.

"UConn deserves to win the game. They made some big shots," Pastner said. "We had some opportunities where we needed to make some big shots but we did not. In the first half, we had a plus-five margin on the glass. They got us on the glass 20-8 in the second half alone. Those two things were the difference. The rebounding and the big shots they made."

Memphis sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin scored the first two points of the game. The Huskies would get on the board with a three made by DeAndre Daniels with the assist from Napier. Daniels would score another basket to put the Huskies up 5-2 with 18:08 left in the first.

Memphis quickly scored another basket at the 17:57 mark when senior guard Joe Jackson knocked down a three of his own to tie the game at five with the assist from senior guard Geron Johnson.

Both teams would trade baskets until the score was knotted at 14 apiece. The Huskies would then go on a 7-0 run to go up 21-14 with 12:22 left in the first. Omar Calhoun scored five of the seven points for Connecticut during the spurt. Memphis, though, would score a quick five points to cut the lead back down to two.

The Tigers opened their largest lead of the first half, five points with the score at 36-31, with 2:39 left in the first. From there, the Huskies won the rest of the period with an 8-4 burst to cut the lead to 40-39 by halftime.

Senior guard Michael Dixon was a huge part of Memphis' success in the first half as he led the team in scoring with 12 points. Dixon shot 50 percent (4-of-8) from the field in the first half. As for the other senior guards, they combined for 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting (28.6 percent) from the field. As a team, Memphis shot 41.9 percent (13-of-31) from the field, 62.5 percent (5-of-8) from three and 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the free throw line.

As for the Huskies, no player scored in double figures but they still managed to shoot a very impressive 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field.

Going into the second half, Connecticut would take a seven point lead (49-42) to quiet the home crowd for a short moment. Then, the Tigers would counteract the Huskies and score eight straight points to take a 50-49 lead at the 14:23 mark. Johnson and sharpshooter Chris Crawford scored six of those eight points from beyond the arc.

At the 13:33 mark in the second half, Memphis would take a 52-51 lead and it would be their last lead of the game. They would continue to trail for the rest of the game but kept the game competitive. They would tie the game up at 62 apiece with jump shot made by Goodwin with 5:22 left in the game.

The Huskies would find a way to take the heart out of their opponent and reckless crowd and score eight points in less than two minutes to take a 70-63 lead. Senior guard/forward Lasan Kromah and Napier accounted for the entire eight points. Memphis would make one more run and get the score to 75-71 with two free throws made by Jackson.

Jackson missed a layup that could've gotten Memphis within two points but failed to capitalize. It was a microcosm of the game for Memphis, missing a key opportunity. The Huskies gradually built on their lead over the final minutes.

UConn salted the game away with their clutch scoring down the stretch. Napier scored eight points in the final 5:02 and the Huskies converted 6-of-6 at the free throw line to keep the home team at bay.

Daniels was the hot man for the Huskies, finishing the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Napier scored 17 and Kromah added 13 points, going a perfect 5-of-5 from the field.

Dixon led Memphis, as he finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting (42.9 percent) from the field. The big men picked up some of the slack. Freshman forward Austin Nichols finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds while Goodwin added 10.

Jackson scored 11 points on a bad shooting night. He shot 28.6 percent (4-of-14) from the field. Johnson shot a decent 50 percent (3-of-6) from the field along with dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.

Jackson wasn't the only guard shooting a bad percentage from the field. Chris Crawford struggled with his jumper all night and finished just 3-of-nine from the floor on the way to an eight point performance before fouling out.

"I didn't force a shot at all," Crawford said to the media after the game. "Whatever shot came to me, I took it. I make those shots most of the time. Tonight just didn't go in for us."

Dixon looked in disbelief that the shots weren't falling for his team.

"I felt like we played hard but they made some big shots and we didn't hit our big shots," the senior from Missouri said. "They've got some good guards and a good team. We just got to execute late and knock down shots (but didn't)."

Memphis will look to shake off the loss to Connecticut as they will stay at home to play against LeMoyne College. The game is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. CST.


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