The No. 24 Memphis Tigers avoided a two-game losing skid and picked up a signature road win on Thursday, Jan. 9, knocking off the defending national champion and No. 12-ranked Louisville Cardinals, 73-67, in an instant classic.
ESPN Stats & Info breaks it down:
Memphis hands Louisville its 1st home loss this season (now 9-1). Tigers outscored Louisville 8-0 in transition during the final 9:13— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 10, 2014
Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin were superb in the clutch for Memphis as the Tigers scored seven unanswered points down the stretch to steal a victory at the KFC Yum! Center.
Despite playing at home in front of a whiteout crowd, Louisville started slow offensively, scoring its first points nearly three minutes into the game. The Tigers capitalized by building an early six-point lead. However, it wouldn't be safe for long.
Luke Hancock kept the Cardinals afloat in the early goings, per Dickie V, who was on hand to call the matchup for ESPN:
Run baby run - Hancock on fire— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) January 10, 2014
Hancock was on fire from distance in the first half, draining two threes en route to 14 first-half points, and provided some timely contributions for Rick Pitino's squad on offense.
A 7-0 run for Memphis late in the first half put the Tigers ahead 32-25, but a deep jumper from Russ Smith stopped the bleeding for Louisville. Surprisingly, the All-American guard would finish the half with just five points on 1-of-6 shooting from the floor.
Nearing the break in action, CBS Sports college hoops reporter Seth Davis warned Memphis of what was to come:
Memphis can't fall into a front runner's trap. Louisville will make its runs. Keep your poise!— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 10, 2014
After making some key halftime adjustments, Louisville opened the second half on a 10-3 run and take its first lead of the game with just under 15 minutes to play. It wouldn't last long, though, as Memphis came charging back to take the lead again.
The back-and-forth drama continued late into the second half. But with Louisville beginning to pull away, a sensational and-1 dunk from Memphis' Geron Johnson tied the game at 64 with three minutes to play.
The two teams kept exchanging the lead until Jackson put the Tigers ahead by three points on a driving floater that was goaltended by Louisville with only 39 seconds remaining.
Hancock got a solid look at a potential game-tying three-pointer, but it was strong and Jackson sealed the deal for Memphis with a free throw moments later.
Key Player Grades
Russ Smith, G, Louisville: C
Louisville's fearless leader struggled mightily in the first half on Thursday, but came out firing in the second half, scoring 14 points over the final 20 minutes to finish with 19 on the night.
His inability to convert down the stretch or get his teammates involved certainly hurt Louisville.
WDRB's Eric Crawford supplies Pitino's thoughts on Smith's play down the stretch:
Pitino: “To tell the truth I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t know what Russ is doing at the end of the game."— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) January 10, 2014
Joe Jackson, G, Memphis: A
Like Smith, the Memphis star started slow on Thursday and eventually found his rhythm. While Jackson's 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting and six assists aren't jaw-dropping, his play toward the end was stellar as he single-handedly sealed the game for Memphis.
Luke Hancock, F, Louisville: B
Luke Hancock was a star for the most part on Thursday, helping keep Louisville within striking distance during the first half and getting to the foul line plenty.
Unfortunately, he shrunk in the big moments late in the game, turning the ball over off his foot, missing a free throw and squandering an opportunity to tie the game with 30 seconds to play.
Chris Crawford, G, Memphis: A-
Chris Crawford was a bright spot for the Tigers on Thursday before foul trouble forced him to the bench midway through the second half.
Crawford connected on all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and did his best to help Memphis overcome Jackson's early struggles. He finished with a dozen points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field.
Memphis will have just two days to rest up before hitting the road again to play Temple on Saturday, Jan. 11. Meanwhile, Louisville will be a heavy favorite to rebound at home against SMU on Sunday, Jan. 12.
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