Skip to content

Memphis loss shouldn’t feed narrative about Josh Pastner, big games

Dec 18, 2013, 9:26 AM EST

source:

AP photo

NEW YORK — I’m staying with a couple of college buddies here in New York while I cover the Jimmy V Classic and the Duke-UCLA game. This morning, I was chatting with one of them — I’ll call him Rizzo — about the game last night. He’s a big sports fan and watches his fair share of college hoops, although his reason for watching the games has a lot more to do with betting lines than it does a full-blown love for the game.

Hey, whatever gets the people into college basketball, right?

Anyway, Rizzo’s reaction to the game last night: “I’d never pick Memphis in a big game.” Not in the tournament, not against a ranked team, not when they play on national television, and Rizzo is far from alone in echoing that sentiment.

Fair or not, the public perception of the Tigers is that they can’t win the big one, that Josh Pastner is not the kind of coach that can lead his guys through adversity when the lights are shining the brightest. A revenge win over Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic didn’t do much to change his mind.

(MORE: Casey Prather is now a star. How and why.)

Now, I’m not here to quibble with you about the narrative. Not today. And I’m not here to try to explain to you that everything Pastner has done with the program outside of hoops — keeping his players out of trouble, graduating players, etc. — has been somewhere between commendable and remarkable.

What I’m here to tell you is that this Memphis team is different. This team will beat some big names in American play and they’ll win some games in the NCAA tournament. I truly believe that for one reason: the Tigers didn’t quit on Tuesday night.

It sounds simple, but it’s not.

You see, the biggest reason that I was ready to write No. 16 Memphis off after their embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater a month ago was that they rolled over and let themselves get beaten when the Cowboys jumped out on top. They didn’t fight back. They took that whooping. They looked like a team that expected to lose. It was tough to watch.

But less than two weeks later, in the finals of the Old Spice Classic, the Tigers erased a double-digit halftime deficit to comeback and beat Marcus Smart and company, the first time in Josh Pastner’s tenure that he had knocked off a consensus top 25 team.

Now, if you weren’t watching closely, you would probably write off last night’s 77-75 loss to No. 15 Florida as Memphis reverting back to their old ways, somehow pinning the Oklahoma State win on a combination of Marcus Smart choking and Memphis getting lucky. It wouldn’t be difficult to make a reference to broken clocks being right twice a day.

But, again, you’d be wrong. For two reasons:

1) Florida is a really, really good basketball team. Like, top-five-in-the-country, national-title-contender good. I truly believe that, especially now that they are back to full strength and have Casey Prather playing like an animal. There ain’t no shame in losing to the Gators by two points.

2) Florida was ready to pull away from Memphis on a number of different occasions, but Memphis didn’t let it happen. The Gators were up double-figures early in the first half, but Michael Dixon pulled the Tigers back to make a game of it at the half. Memphis took the lead at a couple of different points in the second half, but Florida again made a run. Their lead stretched to nine late in the second half, and this time it was Joe Jackson that led the Tigers on a surge to get back into the game.

Just when you thought that Memphis was going to roll over and quit … they didn’t.

Memphis played well on Tuesday night. If a couple of breaks had gone their way — David Pellom doesn’t get called for a goaltend, Michael Dixon doesn’t pick up a phantom fourth foul midway through the second half, Shaq Goodwin doesn’t get a technical when he got too close to the rim trying to get a rebound, Joe Jackson’s layup at the end drops in instead of bouncing of the rim — this would have been a very different story.

Memphis looked like a team tough and talented enough to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

“All you can ask for is the ball in your hands with a chance to win, and that’s what we had,” Pastner said after the game.

And if they get it next time, against Louisville or UConn or Gonzaga, more often than not the outcome will be positive.

Latest Posts
  1. adidas puts wrong logo on Duje Dukan’s Wisconsin warmups (PHOTO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:59 PM EST

    Duje Dukan AP

    The senior forward is apparently playing for the Wisconsin Bearcats.

  2. New Year’s Resolutions: Villanova Wildcats

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:30 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova is off to another good start in the regular season, but heading into the New Year, the Wildcats will need to rack up the wins in postseason play.

  3. Markus Kennedy cleared to play immediately for SMU

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:49 PM EST

    AP AP

    The SMU forward missed the first 10 games.

  4. Two players questionable for Florida’s game against Wake Forest

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Gators could be shorthanded once again in Saturday’s non-conference contest with Wake Forest.

  5. Injured Indiana forward to return to school this spring

    Dec 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Landon Atterberry Devin Davis AP

    The Indiana sophomore was struck by a vehicle driven by a teammate back in November.

  6. FGCU announces addition of former VCU power forward

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EST

    VCU v George Washington Getty Images

    Antravious Simmons averaged 0.7 points and 0.7 rebounds as a redshirt freshman at VCU.

  7. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: No. 3 Arizona among three ranked teams in action

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:27 PM EST

    Stanley Johnson AP

    The Wildcats are on the road to take on one of Conference USA’s best teams in UTEP, and both No. 18 Miami and No. 20 St. John’s are in action as well.

  8. Injured senior guard leaves St. Bonaventure program

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:44 PM EST

    La Salle Explorers v St. Bonaventure Bonnies Getty Images

    Jordan Gathers had yet to play in a game this season after undergoing hip surgery in June.

  9. One suitor for Duke transfer hopes to land him despite not having an available scholarship

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EST

    Livingstone v Duke Getty Images

    Kansas State is one of many programs looking to land Semi Ojeleye, but all of their scholarships are accounted for currently.

  10. POSTERIZED: UNLV commit Derrick Jones throws one down with force (VIDEO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:04 PM EST

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Jones’ dunk on five-star forward Cody Riley is one of the best you’ll see this year.

  11. New Year’s Resolutions: Duke Blue Devils

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    When you talk Duke basketball in 2014-15, you start with Player of the Year candidate Jahlil Okafor, but there are plenty of other keys to Duke’s success as we get closer to the new year.

  12. Weekend Preview: A loaded Saturday slate highlights the weekend

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Dakarai Allen, Nigel Williams-Goss AP

    Oklahoma-Washington, Ohio State-North Carolina and UCLA-Kentucky are just three of the marquee matchups.

  13. Rebounding, foul shooting help No. 2 Duke make up for 19 turnovers in win over UConn

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 AM EST

    Mike Krzyzewski Mike Krzyzewski

    Even with the win there are things Duke needs to improve upon, most notably the fact that they’ve committed 36 turnovers over the last two games.

  14. Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Virginia move to 10-0

    Dec 18, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones

    Also of note was Ole Miss avoiding what would have been their fourth home loss of the season.

  15. Right foot injury to sideline Tennessee forward for at least one game

    Dec 18, 2014, 8:44 PM EST

    Steve Taylor Jr., Kevin Punter, Jabari McGhee AP

    Jabari McGhee suffered the injury in Tennessee’s loss to NC State on Wednesday.

  16. Michigan State starting forward to miss next two games with non-displaced wrist fracture

    Dec 18, 2014, 7:09 PM EST

    Branden Dawson, Brandon Nazione AP

    Branden Dawson is the team’s leading rebounder, as he’s grabbing 8.7 boards per contest.

  17. Minnesota adds 6-foot-9 freshman power forward to roster

    Dec 18, 2014, 5:59 PM EST

    Richard Pitino AP

    Gaston Diedhiou was denied admission to Minnesota during the summer, and he is now eligible immediately after passing an English proficiency exam.

  18. New Year’s Resolutions: San Diego State Aztecs

    Dec 18, 2014, 5:08 PM EST

    Steve Fisher AP

    While the focus has been on the Aztecs’ shooting percentages, their ability to find quality looks has been a big reason why they’ve struggled.

  19. Pregame Shootaround: Is Duke-UConn a rivalry?

    Dec 18, 2014, 3:45 PM EST

    brimah AP

    When do we start counting Duke-UConn as a rivalry?