The Memphis Tigers went to the Bahamas for more than sand and relaxation. They went to win the Battle 4 Atlantis.
However, after an ugly 78-65 loss to Virginia Commonwealth (VCU), all they can hope for is 2 wins in the consolation round and a fifth-place finish.
The Tigers stumbled out of the gate, allowing the Rams to shoot 51.6% from the floor in the opening half while hemorraging 23 points off turnovers, staking VCU to a commanding 42-28 halftime lead. Memphis had an especially hard time guarding the 3-point line, getting strafed by 6-of-11 shooting form beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the listless Tigers shot just 9-for-21 from the floor in the first half. Additionally, starters Tarik Black and Joe Jackson picked up two fouls apiece in the first frame. Black overcame his struggles by drawing just one more foul on the way to 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals in 30 minutes of action.
Jackson, however, had by far his worst game of the season, ending the contest with just 6 points and 2 assists while coughing up 7 turnovers in a mere 20 minutes on the floor. This opened up floor time for junior Antonio Barton, who ran the team well but struggled (1-of-10) with his shooting touch.
Memphis looked like an entirely different team in the second half, cutting the gap to as little as 3 (64-61) late in the second half. Shortly thereafter, the VCU starters returned and put the game out of reach as Memphis bricked free throws that could have helped them climb back in the game.
Memphis went 0-for-4 from the line in the second half and just 9-16 for the game.
Black (12 points), Shaq Goodwin (6) and Adonis Thomas (team-high 19) led the second half charge, while Chris Crawford chipped in with 10. However, Thomas and Crawford combined for 8 more turnovers (6 by Adonis) as the starting five contributed 16 of the Tigers' 22 turnovers on the night.
Memphis now plays the Minnesota Golden Gophers at noon on Friday in the consolation (loser's) bracket. Minnesota, coached by former national title winner Tubby Smith, has a pair of kids by the last name of Hollins with connections to Memphis.
Andre Hollins made the All Big 10 Freshman team last season in his rookie campaign out of Memphis White Station High School. Austin Hollins, son of Memphis Grizzlies' head coach Lionel Hollins, also plays for the Gophers. Austin Hollins spent a season at Germantown High School in the suburban Memphis area.