As far as Nae’Qwan Tomlin is concerned, the Memphis Tigers upset loss to the University of South Florida Bulls came down to one simple fact.
“South Florida played harder than us,” said Nae’Qwan Tomlin after the Bulls upset the No. 10 ranked Memphis Tigers, 74-73, on an icy day at the FedExForum.
Nearly 3,000 fans braved the wintry weather to see the game. This is the first loss the Tigers have suffered at home and in the conference, ending a 10-game winning streak (15-3, 4-1 American).
The Bulls (10-5, 3-1) got off to a good start, making their first shots and opening a 7-4 lead over the Tigers. Jahvon Quinerly scored the first four Memphis points. The Tigers forced a turnover, and Tomlin’s layup gave them their first lead of the game, 8-7, with 14:32 left to play in the first half.
The Tigers extended their lead, with David Jones scoring 18 first-half points and Tomlin adding 10. They led by as many as 20 points in the half, 34-14, with 7:05 remaining. For the third consecutive game, the Tigers had a four-point play.
Ashton Hardaway was fouled on a three-point basket and made the free throw. Memphis led at the half, 47-32, with Hardaway contributing 7 first-half points.
It’s usually the Tigers that get hot in the second half. On this night, it was as the Bulls. USF went on an 11-7 run to start the half and were only down 54-43 with 16:27 left in the game. The Bulls continued their momentum and made it a two-point game after a technical foul was called on Tomlin, and Kasean Pryor made two free throws with 5:43 left (66-64). The Tigers did not score in the last two minutes of the game, and the Bulls scored 4 points to secure the win.
The Bulls were led by Selton Miguel with 23 points and Pryor with 21 points and 10 rebounds. They made 16 of 21 free throws and connected on 10 of 30 three-pointers. The Bulls shot 39 percent from the field for the game.
“Tough game for a lot of reasons,” said Tigers Coach Penny Hardaway. “I am going to take the L and learn from the game. I have been here before. We have to see what we are made of moving forward. Good game by South Florida.”
Jones had 25 points for the Tigers. Quinerly had 15 points, and Tomlin finished the game with 10 points. The Tigers only scored 26 points in the second half and allowed 42. Nick Jourdain and Malcolm Dandridge each had 7 rebounds. The Tigers only had 8 assists in the game.
When asked if this could be a wake-up call for the Tigers, Tomlin said, “Most definitely, I think so. We have to be better at not giving up offensive rebounds as a team. We have to take better shots as a team and just play defense.”
Regarding whether this will be a wake-up call, Hardaway said, “I don’t know if this is going to be a wake-up call. There are so many things we are dealing with. I hope by March it is all gone. There are some things that are lingering. We have to continue to try to get better.”
On facing Tulane on Sunday and not letting this loss roll into another loss, Hardaway said, “Losses don’t deter me. It’s not learning from them that will. Tulane has played well enough to win games. We know how they play against us. If you go down there and get only 8 assists, it will be the same outcome as it was today.”
Next up for the Tigers is a road trip to New Orleans to face the Tulane Green Wave. Tulane beat the Tigers twice last season. The game will tip off at noon on Sunday, Jan. 21, and can be watched on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.