It’s been four years. Four whole years. Four years with Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. And in these four years, did you expect them to be a team that hadn’t made it to the Sweet Sixteen? Me neither.
Even though the Tigers have struggled in the post season over the past few years, homegrown seniors Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford have battled and played their hearts out for “Bluff City.” And even after a 1-7 shooting first half where Memphis trailed SMU today, Joe Jackson battled, leading the Tigers to a 67-58 win.
“Our haven’t been playing great the last couple of games so we needed that,” said Jackson. “This team won’t go far unless we play our butts off in both tournaments, so this is just a start with a great finish to the season.”
After opening with a few layups from Austin Nichols, the Tigers grabbed an early 6-2 lead. But SMU battled back and with Memphis’s lack of scoring, the Mustangs of SMU were able to extend their lead to 7 on a Nic Moore 3 pointer.
And although Memphis cut into that lead, the Tigers trailed by 4 at the half.
Coming out of the half, you expected something. Just something from these seniors. And boy did you get it.
With two early layups by Nichols, the Tigers were able to tie the lead. And then, when it seemed that the Tigers were ready to bust through, Joe Jackson drilled a 3 pointer putting Memphis ahead by 33-30.
“I had a lot of fun out there,” said Nichols. “SMU went on a stretch there, we continued and continued to battle back, and then our seniors picked it up. It was just perfect.”
Joe Jackson followed that three up with a few more key buckets extending the Tigers’ lead to 47-39, and then rightfully so, Chris Crawford had his senior day highlight.
All Memphis fans know that Chris Crawford has had his ups and downs this year and over the course of his career but his career “up” might have started with 10:42 left on this Saturday. Crawford drained 3 straight 3′s and streaked down the sideline high-fiving Penny Hardaway (every Memphis kid’s dream).
“I’m a very emotional guy,” said Crawford. “I saw Penny over there and I turned around. I’ve known Penny for a long time and he’s a great icon for the university.”
With those threes, Memphis was able to take over the game, leading to their victory.
“It was a great win for us. The crowd was great, it was loud, and it really helped us,” said Coach Josh Pastner. “Chris Crawford hit big shots, and when you make shots that allows you to get the victory.”
This win, which was yet another game against a top 25 opponent, will keep Memphis in the top 25 and will give them a lot of confidence heading into the American Athletic conference tournament this upcoming weekend. The tournament will take place in Memphis, at the FedEx Forum, so make sure to tune in to watch the tournament throughout the week.