Tiger Nation was quiet for the most part of Wednesday night's game against the UCF Knights. They weren't as rowdy as they were on Saturday night when ESPN's College GameDay crew was in town for the game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The fans were watching a sluggish Memphis Tigers team that looked to have a hangover from their recent win over the Zags.
Before the game got out of control, the Tigers had to get going on offense and defense to satisfy the 15,021 people in attendance at the FedEx Forum.
Despite the Tigers' sluggish start in the first half and midway through the second half, Memphis (19-5, 8-3 AAC) was able to hold off UCF (9-13, 1-10 AAC) for the potential upset with a 76-70 home victory in conference play. With the loss to Memphis, the Knights losing streak extended to nine games.
"It was a good win. We found a way to get the W," Coach Josh Pastner stated to the media. "It was not pretty. We got to give Central Florida credit, but we got the W and that's the bottom line. I didn't think we were sharp in some things. Championship teams got to play the championship level every time you step on the floor. I felt like our energy was fine, but I didn't think some of our execution in some areas we were real good."
Memphis would take the lead for good with the tip-in from freshman wingman Nick King at the 10:32 mark. Memphis led 17-16. The Tigers would go on a 12-0 run to push their lead up to double figures.
UCF would quickly cut Memphis' lead with a 10-0 run of their own to get within three points with 3:08 left in the first. Senior guard Joe Jackson would score five of Memphis' final seven points to give the Tigers a 36-30 lead at halftime.
As a team, the Tigers shot 46.9 percent (15-of-32) from the field, 33.3 percent (3-of-9) from long range and 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from the free throw line. Jackson led the team in scoring with nine points.
UCF scoring machine Isaiah Sykes was held to seven points in the first half on 3-of-7 (42.9 percent) shooting from the field. His teammate Spurlock kept the Knights alive with 12 points.
Spurlock surpassed his season average of 10.4 points a game in the first half. While the Tigers' defense was focusing on Sykes, they had seemed to care less about his teammates.
In the first half, UCF shot 46.2 percent (12-of-26) from the field, 25 percent (2-of-8) from long range, and 50 percent (4-of-8) from the line. The Knights won the rebounding battle in the first with a 17-14 advantage.
"They kicked our butt on the glass," Pastner said when asked about the Tigers' issue with rebounding. "You know Shaq, even though he played well offensively and did a good job defensively guarding the ball screen, he didn't do a good job on the glass."
In the second half, UCF started a 7-2 run to get within one of the Tigers. At the 15:23 mark, UCF would take a one-point lead with the layup made by Staphon Blair. Both teams would once again trade baskets and were tied up at 48 with 10:38 left in the game.
Senior guard Chris Crawford knocked down a jump shot from beyond the arc to give the Tigers a three-point lead. UCF would again cut the Tigers' lead back down to one when the score was 53-52 with 5:24 left in the game.
Pastner reiterated what he wants from his go-to-guys each and every night they step onto the floor.
"We need him (Goodwin) to be better on the defensive end of the glass. He's vital for us. We need Chris Crawford to have more defensive rebounds. He's a guy that's going to be a great defensive rebounder. That's important for us."
Once the Tigers found some comfort in their offense, they were able to cruise to another home victory and got their eighth win in the American Athletic Conference.
In the second half, the Tigers shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field, 20 percent (1-of-5) from long range and 75 percent (15-of-20) from the line. Four players for the Tigers scored in double figures with Jackson leading the team in scoring with 18.
Goodwin had 14 points and six rebounds. Crawford and Michael Dixon Jr. added 10 points apiece.
Memphis lost the rebounding battle 39-27 to UCF but was able to shut down the tag team duo of Sykes and Spurlock and kept them under control. Spurlock finished as the team's leading scorer with 18 points. Sykes added 14 points. Kasey Wilson pitched in 10 points.
The game changer was the three Crawford knocked down from the corner when the game was tied up at 48.
"My teammates just found me and it was a big three for us, but it all starts on the defensive end. We got a couple of stops there and we got out in transition and got some easy buckets for us," Crawford said. "Our defense carried over to our offense and that was good for us."