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Tigers' Dream Tournament Run Ends In Controversy and Heartbreak Versus Florida Atlantic

Round one of the NCAA Men’s Tournament has concluded, but the Memphis Tigers do not find themselves in a second-round matchup this year. 

The Tigers were defeated by the Florida Atlantic Owls 66-65 this past Friday in one of the more controversial games of the tournament. A game that came down to the last seconds due to some costly mistakes and some questionable referee decisions. 

Although if you were to ask Penny Hardaway, he would tell you that’s just how the game works. 

The story of the game came with less than 15 seconds left as Memphis inbounds the ball. The Tigers lead by one with a score of 65-64.  

Kendric Davis gets trapped in a press and throws a pass that gets intercepted by FAU guard Brandon Weatherspoon. There is a scramble for the ball by both teams, multiple Memphis players plead for a timeout as Jayden Hardaway has possession of the basketball, but the officials call a jump ball. 

The possession arrow is in favor of FAU. The entire Memphis team is furious and in shock at what the officials have called what is considered ‘the most controversial moment of March Madness.’ 

With 5.5 seconds left, FAU guard Nick Boyd receives the inbound in the corner and drives in for a go-ahead layup with 2.5 seconds remaining. The Tigers rush ahead for a shot attempt but cannot get a shot off before the buzzer. 

The FAU Owls rushed to the court in jubilation. Coach Penny Hardaway tossed his water bottle in pure frustration. The entire Memphis team was in disbelief at what they had just witnessed.  

In the events leading up to the wild ending, the game was eventful and close the entire way. Memphis found themselves trailing as low as 10 points at the eight-minute mark in the first half before going into halftime with a 35-31 lead. 

The Tigers found themselves in the lead despite a slow start from DeAndre Williams as Kendric Davis, Elijah McCadden, and Jayden Hardaway combined for 28 of the 35 first-half points. 

It was the second half when Memphis found itself in a slight hole.  

Less than three minutes into the second half, DeAndre Williams found himself with two quick personal fouls, putting him at four fouls in the game. Elijah McCadden picked up a technical foul seconds later. 

Despite the early issues, Penny Hardaway decided to take the risk and put DeAndre Williams back in the game with 14 minutes left despite the four fouls. 

Memphis found themselves holding onto the lead with only so much time left in the game until disaster struck. With about 5:39 remaining, Kendric Davis missed a three-point attempt, but he came down on the defender’s foot causing him to turn his right ankle badly. 

This is the same ankle that Davis injured versus UCF in the regular season, causing him to miss considerable time. Davis hobbled over to the bench swiftly as the atmosphere in the arena paused as everyone focused on him.  

Davis was frustrated as his mother was in attendance and his journey to finally playing in the NCAA tournament was heavily documented since his decision to join Memphis.  

Many questioned the referees’ position during the play as the landing space foul has been heavily emphasized throughout all levels of basketball. This saw Penny Hardaway alternate between having Alex Lomax and Kendric Davis on the court. 

The Tigers would fall short of a winning effort in heartbreaking fashion. This happened at a time when many experts believed that Memphis would have a great chance of going far with 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson upsetting 1-seeded Purdue. 

Kendric Davis led Memphis with 16 points while getting some help from DeAndre Williams, who provided a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. 

Memphis fans believed that this was the year for a deep tournament run, especially with one of the most experienced and oldest teams in the NCAA. Fans can look forward to seeing how the Tigers look with incoming recruits Mikey Williams and JJ Taylor. 

Memphis will look to build on the success of this year with an AAC Championship. One thing fans will continue to think about for months to come is: What if the referees granted a timeout? 

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