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Tigers’ strong effort falls short vs. No. 8 Oklahoma, 84-78

<p>Dedric Lawson has emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country in 2015-16. He’s averaging 14.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.&nbsp;</p>
Dedric Lawson has emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country in 2015-16. He’s averaging 14.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. 

While few gave the Memphis Tigers basketball team a chance against No. 8 Oklahoma, Vegas Insider had the Sooners as just a four-point favorite heading into the contest.

The game between the Sooners and Tigers was as close as the line suggested.

Memphis, led by an incredible performance from freshman forward Dedric Lawson, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, gave a spirited effort but fell at the final hurdle against Oklahoma (1-0), 84-78, with 12,688 in attendance at FedExForum Tuesday afternoon.

“This was a good, hard fought game,” said Memphis coach Josh Pastner after the game. “I felt that our guys battled and played the right way. All you can ask for is the chance to win the game at the last media timeout. We had some chances. We didn’t take advantage of those chances. Whether it was via free throws or a layup or some open threes. I loved how we played. I love this team. I’m excited for this team.”

Memphis (1-1) remained in contention for the entire game despite shooting a putrid 35 percent from the field, 6-26 from three-point range, converted just 18-31 free throws, and its two best players Lawson and Shaq Goodwin getting in foul trouble in the second half. In part because the Tigers’ defense forced 19 Sooners’ turnovers, for the game, and held Oklahoma’s offense to 39 percent from the field in the second half.

The game featured 10 lead changes, six ties and no team leading by more than eight points at any point, so it was fitting Oklahoma and Memphis were tied at 68-68, following a Markel Crawford made jumpshot, with 5:25 remaining.

The two teams traded the lead back-and-fourth over the next four minutes before a dunk by Sooner forward Ryan Spangler gave Oklahoma a 77-76 lead with 1:23 left. Sooner guard James Woodard, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, hit a three with 36 seconds left to extend its lead to 80-76, and while Memphis cut the lead to 80-78 soon after, the Sooners finished the game off at the free throw line (15-20).

“It’s tough losing a game like this, especially when we were up with a minute to go,” said Trahson Burrell, who had 10 points and six rebounds in the loss. “Everybody was playing hard and giving it everything they’ve got. We just had a little letdown. It’s the beginning of the season and we’re still feeling each out. For us to play like that, against the number eight team in the country, I think we did well.”

Oklahoma All-American guard Buddy Hield also his role in the Sooners closing out the scrappy Tigers. He finished with a game-high 30 points (9-19 FG), shooting 8-10 from the line, and eight rebounds.

“There is a reason why Buddy is an All-American,” Pastner said. “You can see his stat line, and there’s a reason for it – he is terrific.”

As it became more apparent Memphis and Oklahoma would go down to the wire, the Tiger crowd became extremely active and made its presence known Tuesday afternoon.

Avery Woodson, who made four of the Tigers’ six-three pointers in the game and finished with 12 points, said the team fed off the crowd’s energy.

“That’s probably the best game I’ve been a part of at home since I’ve been a Memphis Tiger,” Woodson said. “Hopefully the fans will stay consistent. Hopefully we can keep this going through the whole season. I’d love to see it and I know these guys would too.”

The Tigers return to action 7 p.m. Thursday when they welcome Grambling State to FedExForum.

Other notes

-- Dedric Lawson recorded his first double-double for the Blue and Gray in defeat. Along with his 22 points and 15 rebounds, Lawson blocked three shots and recorded two assists.

-- Tiger point guard Ricky Tarrant, who went down with an apparent injury and returned later in the game, finished with eight points and five assists.

-- Shaq Goodwin, who was in foul trouble and played 30 minutes, recorded seven points, seven rebounds and a career-high five blocks in the loss.

Tiger freshman forward Dedric Lawson finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in Memphis’ 84-78 loss to Oklahoma Tuesday. 

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