Coming into Wednesday’s matchup with a 3-1 record in AAC play, Memphis basketball was in a great spot to put more pressure on Houston at the top of the conference. While UCF has shown some flashes of promise, they were coming off a loss to Temple at home. With a long layoff dating back to a week ago, many wondered just how UCF would handle Memphis.
Although they didn’t play great, they were able to knock off the Tigers by 10 points, leaving Memphis scrambling for answers.
In a result few saw coming, Memphis basketball dropped their second conference college basketball game to UCF. While the result was certainly surprising, even more shocking was the fact that Memphis never felt “in the game.”
Memphis had the lead for 19 seconds after Tyler Harris made a three-pointer to open up the game’s scoring. The Tigers never led again. With Memphis basketball already on the bubble coming into the game, the damage this game did to their resume may soon be insurmountable.
UCF Bests Memphis Basketball, 74-64
While the loss to the Knights is bad no matter how it is portrayed, injuries didn’t help Memphis. The Tigers’ leading scorer and second-leading rebounder DeAndre Williams was out with a back injury for the second straight game. Sophomore guard Earl Timberlake was also inactive due to still remaining in concussion protocol. While both players are losses that Memphis couldn’t replace, they still should’ve been able to come away with a victory.
Losing arguably the best player on your team is always going to be tough. For a team like Memphis, it should certainly not be the end, especially against a team like UCF. This is the type of game where you’d expect Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren to step up. Instead, the two top-10 recruits of the 2021 class were non-existent. They combined for just 17 points while also combining for seven turnovers. These guys were supposed to dominate and failed to show up in the slightest. For a team with so much potential, it’s a shame to see their top recruits aren’t able to score 20 points combined in a game where they’re needed most.
Tigers Mentally Weak?
Over the course of the season, Memphis has averaged among the best in the country in free throws attempted. As a team, they average just under 70% from the line. Against UCF, they pulled their best Shaquille O’Neal impression from the line, combining to shoot just 6/18 for a pathetic 33%. It’s not fair to expect a team like Memphis to make every single free throw. It’s not even fair to expect them to shoot 85-90%. To shoot that poorly, however, is something that reflects on the team not being mentally tough.
The Tigers play an up-tempo offense often. With that, comes the understanding that they’ll usually commit more turnovers due to the increased speed of play. Against the Knights, however, the Tigers made too many mental mistakes and bad decisions, turning the ball over 19 times. To be fair, UCF is not a bad defensive team. They are fifth in the AAC in scoring defense, at 65 points per game. To turn the ball over that much against an average defense, however, is unacceptable. It shows a complete lack of care for the ball. In the AAC, that will burn the Tigers every night they step on the court.