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Tigers suffer pain of two-point loss to SMU

The Tigers just did not start right against SMU and – despite playing “real basketball” in the second half – they reaped what they sowed in the form of a 67-65 loss on the road.

Facing the Mustangs after a four point (76-72) victory on Tuesday at the FedExForum, Memphis was not able to net victory in a down-to-the-wire nail-biter.

“Tough game, we spotted them too many points. We came out in the second half and played real basketball,” Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway said.

“We got back to a one-point lead with 1:34, then we lost all our principles and focus. I am proud of the effort in the guys fighting back. We have got to learn how to win at the end of the games on the road.”

With the game on the line, Memphis had an opportunity to tie on a three-point shot by Boogie Ellis. Ellis missed but a foul sent him to the free throw line for three shots. He made the first, missed the second and then missed the third on purpose, trying to set up a rebound-and-put-back opportunity.

It worked, partially, with Ellis forcing a jump ball, with possession awarded to Memphis. With 1.3 seconds left in the game and after a Memphis timeout, the Tigers failed to get a shot attempt off before the game clock expired.

The Tigers (9-6, 5-3 American Athletic Conference) fell behind 7-0 in a start eerily the last game against the Mustangs. SMU never trailed in the first half, taking a 33-23 lead into the break.

Nothing Hardaway tried in the first half resulted in a positive offensive flow. Down by as many as 16 points in the second half, the Tigers stormed back thanks to the defensive efforts and offensive production of Landers Nolley II and DeAndre Williams.

With the Tigers ahead by a point at the 1:34 mark, the Mustangs scored four points without having to take a shot. Two Memphis fouls sent SMU to the free throw line, where they finished 12 of 13 for the game.

Only two Tigers – Nolley with 19 points and Williams (17 points, 11 rebounds) emerged as double-digit scorers.

Landers Nolley II had a strong offensive performance with 19 points. (Courtesy photo)

“They (Nolley and Williams) were recipients of some nice passes and they capitalized,” Hardaway said. “Everyone else did not capitalize the way we wanted them to and we still had a chance to win. Those two guys stepped up to the plate offensively and we needed to in order to have an opportunity to win.”

Williams said the Tigers “gave a lot of energy at the end. We should have started off that way. If we start that way, we would have beat them by 20. The last three or four games we have had bad starts. For us to be a better team, we have got to have better starts.”


* The Tigers return to FedExForum next week for four-straight games beginning Monday against UCF at 7 p.m.

* Memphis also faces UCF on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and both games against the Knights can be seen on ESPN+.

* The Tigers finish next week against East Carolina on Saturday (Feb. 6) at 1 p.m. on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

* The last game on Memphis’ four-game homestand is Thursday, Feb. 11 against Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 or ESPNU.


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