Tigers' 18-game win streak snapped at Xavier
Senior forward D.J. Stephens and the Tigers could not overcome a forgetful first half at Xavier, falling 64-62. Photo By David C. Minkin | special to the daily helmsman
Entering Wednesday night's game at Xavier, not only had the University of Memphis men's basketball team won 18 straight, it was the only team in the country to have a flawless road record (7-0). The vast majority of the wins came against what many have deemed a down Conference USA. But at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Tigers were smacked in the face with a more physical Musketeer squad from the Atlantic 10 that manhandled Memphis on the glass on their way to a 64-62 win over the No. 19 team in the country.
In the Tigers (22-4, 13-0 C-USA) previous seven road games, they established a presence in the paint, out-rebounding opponents on their home floor +4.9 rebounds per game. Xavier's presence in the paint had the Tigers reeling from the tip, as they grabbed 16 offensive boards by the final buzzer.
The first 20 minutes of the game would come back to haunt Memphis in the end. The game began to unfold with the Tigers down 12-8 with 14:11 remaining. Xavier's physicality behind the grind of Travis Taylor's 10 boards and 18 points on the offensive glass gave the Musketeers chance after chance to score baskets. Xavier used a 12-0 advantage in second chance points and a 27-14 edge in rebounds to leave Memphis to make some serious halftime adjustments in unfamiliar territory down 31-20 at the half.
Things appeared to be much the same as the second half of play opened, as Xavier's Isaiah Philmore immediately went down low over senior D.J. Stephens to make the score 33-20. As many waited for the Tigers to make a run, the Musketeers continued to relentlessly crash the boards and answered a mini-Memphis run that had cut the deficit to single digits back to 10 at 41-31 with 12:00 to go.
Junior guards Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson were not going to watch the Tigers go out without a fight. Trailing 41-33 with 10:22 remaining, the juniors hit four straight threes in a time of adversity to make it a whole new ball game tied at 45 as the clock hit 7:48.
Despite being dominated physically up to that point, destiny looked to be shining on a Memphis team that had silenced many critics since their dismantling in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Tied at 55 with three minutes to go, junior guard Joe Jackson drove in and hit a layup to put the Tigers on top 57-55. But, on the next possession Musketeer guard Brad Redford displayed the ice water in his veins, nailing a three to put Xavier back on top 58-57.
Johnson had a chance to pull the Tigers back on top at the charity stripe, but, in a stat line that doomed Memphis, he missed the first of a one-and-one to give Xavier back the ball in a game where the Tigers shot just 6-17 (35.3 percent) from the free throw line. The Musketeers were equally as bad, but made them when it counted, slamming the door on dreams of a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Johnson did everything he could to give the Tigers a chance in the end, scoring 12 of his team-high's 14 points in the second half. Jackson added 11 points, while Crawford chipped in with 10.
Memphis has no time to hang their heads, as they head to Orlando Saturday to take on the Central Florida Knights. Tipoff is slated for noon CT.
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