By: Anthony Sain ( @ SainAsylum )
The Memphis Tigers (1-1) gave fans good reasons to refill the seats in the FedEx Forum yesterday as they gave the #8 ranked Oklahoma Sooners (1-0) all that they could handle in an 84-78 loss. Led by a remarkable breakout effort by freshman Dedric Lawson, the Tigers played well enough to pull off the upset over the experienced Sooners but weren’t able to make enough key plays down the stretch.
Lawson would finish the game with 22 points and 15 rebounds on the night including 10 offensive rebounds. He showed an array of crafty offensive skills, being able to get to the basket as well as making smart plays on defense. Lawson had an opportunity to possibly be the hero of the game when the Tigers were down four, 82-78 with 14 seconds left. Lawson was fouled on a three-point attempt and came away empty on all three free-throw attempts. This stretch was of course disappointing but something that should not take away from Lawson’s outstanding performance overall.
Dedric Lawson on the missed free throws
“My main thing on that play was to make a play and unfortunately I missed all three free throws, but when that happens, you keep your head up and work and make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Lawson.
Lawson on not playing intimidated against a talented and experienced team
“I treat every game like it’s high school,” said Lawson. “Some of these are guys I played against in high school and I look at every team the same. I just go out and be a competitor and help my team to win. And help my team win the best way I can on my part. “
Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner also was extremely complimentary of his talented freshman, as well as his teammates who had plenty to say about Lawson’s national television debut.
“I think Dedric is a stud,” said Pastner. “When you have 22 (points) and 15 (rebounds) in a game, it is what it is. He probably could have played a lot better. That is how good he is. As good as he played, he probably played to about 60-percent of his ability. I think the more time that he gets on the floor; the better he is going to be. That is the same with K.J., Jeremiah, Craig Randall, Nick Marshall, the more they get on the floor, the better they are going to be. Dedric is a stud.”
Senior Forward Trahson Burrell on Lawson
“It didn’t really surprise me,” said Burrell. “I saw him in high school. I’ve seen him in practice. I know the type of player he is. We play a ranked and competitive team. We don’t look for Dedric to fall off. We look for him to step up and do what he has today. It doesn’t come as a surprise. We know what he’s capable of.”
Junior Guard Avery Woodson on Lawson
“I’ve seen what he can do,” said Woodson. “He comes into practice in attack mode daily. We expect that out of him. We don’t expect him to come in intimidated just because he’s seen the number eight team in the nation. We feel like he’s going to be the same guy each and every day. He’s been consistent so far. And that’s what we need from him.”
Outside of Lawson’s performance, Oklahoma’s senior superstar guard Buddy Hield had a performance that many would expect from the All-American candidate with 30 points eight rebounds and four assists.
Pastner on Hield, a player that he was familiar with from recruiting him out of high school
“Buddy – and I had said this earlier in the week – I thought was a first-round draft pick, and he is really good,” said Pastner. “There is a reason why Buddy is an All-American. You can see his stat line, and there is a reason for it – he is terrific.”
A stretch that proved to be crucial to collapsing the Tigers hopes to coming away with an upset began with Tiger forward Shaq Goodwin missing two free throws with his team up 74-73 with 2:38 remaining. An extremely controversial foul was then called against Memphis on the following possession, allowing Jordan Woodard of Oklahoma to make two free throws to put the Sooners up 75-74. Memphis would trade baskets with the Sooners down the stretch before Woodard would put the game away knocking down a three pointer putting the Sooners up 80-76 with 36 seconds remaining.
The Tigers were extremely optimistic after the game and showed a lot to the announced 12,688 energetic fans that were in attendance Tuesday afternoon. They has a deliberate offensive attack and made plays on defense. The fans definitely saw a much different team from the one that struggled with little to no identity last season in an impressive effort against Oklahoma.
Pastner on his team’s overall performance
“This was a good, hard-fought game,” said Pastner. “I felt that our guys battled and played the right way. All you can ask for is a chance to win the game at the last media timeout. We had some chances. We didn’t take advantage of the chances, whether it was a free throw or a lay-up, or some open three’s. I loved how we played. I love this team. I’m excited for this team.”
Burrell on the team’s effort and coming up short
“It’s tough losing a game like this, especially when we were up with a minute to go,” said Burrell. “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 other out. For us to play like that, against the number eight team in the country, I think we did well.”
Woodson on the fans in attendance
“We fed off the crowd’s energy today,” said Woodson. “That’s probably the best game I’ve been a part of at home since I’ve been a Memphis Tiger. 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.