Trailing by double-digits at halftime, and with a 21-point loss already in their rearview mirror, there was little reason to be optimistic about the Memphis Tigers chances to even the score with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
But, they did.
The No.21 Tigers (5-1, 0-0 AAC) used a 41-26 second half, along with drastically improved guard-play, to storm back and upset the No. 5 Cowboys (7-1, 0-0 Big 12) 73-68 Sunday night in the finals of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.
It was a huge character win for Coach Josh Pastner's team—who finally got their first victory over a ranked team during his tenure—and helped erase the memories of a disastrous trip to Stillwater earlier this season in which his team trailed by as much as 34 points.
The Tigers were led by sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin, who scored a team-high 17 points along with eight boards and three assists. His energy-level was infections to his teammates throughout the game, and helped propel the team to victory.
Coming into their first matchup, much attention surrounded the Tigers guard-play. But the combination of Michael Dixon Jr., Chris Crawford, Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson was almost completely shutdown, and combined for only 21 points.
Tonight that wasn't a problem, as the foursome contributed 47 points, including several clutch shots near the end of the game to help ice the affair.
Oklahoma State struggled early, but closed the first half on a run to snag a 10-point halftime lead. But they came out sluggish in the second half and allowed Memphis to erase the deficit in short order.
The biggest difference tonight for the Cowboys was the disappearing act of sophomore guard Marcus Smart.
Smart was dominant in the first meeting with 39 points, but tonight he struggled and finished with just 12 on 4 for 13 shooting.