Elation In Memphis As Josh Pastner Finally Beats a Top 25 Team

By Robbie Marbury
Kim Klement-USATODAY Sports

In his four-plus years at Memphis, head coach Josh Pastner had yet to record a win over an AP top-25 team, but changed on Sunday night. The Tigers knocked off No. 5 Oklahoma State 73-68 in the finals of the Old Spice Classic; a victory that should finally get the monkey off of Josh Pastner’s back. Memphis has been ranked at some point each of the past three seasons under Pastner, but by season’s end you could always criticize that ranking because the Tigers never were able to get a win over a top-25 team. This win should solidify Pastner as one of the better young coaches in the country, as well as give him some breathing room with fans in Memphis.

Coming into the night, the Tigers had been 0-13 versus AP Top-25 teams under Pastner — last season the Tigers beat St. Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament who were ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, but not the AP Poll — but now they are 1-13. Until Sunday, the last Tigers top-25 win was in February 2009, when Memphis beat #18 Gonzaga. Do you realize how long ago 2009 was? In 2009, Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana, Instagram wasn’t a thing and Kanye West was still sane. That’s a long time ago.

Memphis was able to get the win over Oklahoma State thanks to a big performance from Chris Crawford down the stretch; he score eight of his 16 points in the final six minutes of action. The Tigers were also helped by clutch free throws from Joe Jackson, who went 4-4 to close out the game, and Geron Johnson‘s defense on Marcus Smart. Smart did not have a good game, but he appeared to be getting on a roll at the end, but Pastner put Johnson on him the final two possessions which led to two turnovers for the Cowboys.

As good as Jackson, Johnson and Crawford were on Sunday evening, the reason the Tigers won was because of the play of Shaq Goodwin. Goodwin led the Tigers from the jump. He was making hustle plays, crashing the boards, blocking shots and making great passes. He literally did everything you would want a player to do for you.

This is a big win for Memphis, a win that will help them shake the tag of being a team that beats up on bad teams, but cannot hang with the big boys. This team is a very good college basketball team, and now we can throw their name back in with Louisville and UConn as a favorite to win the AAC.

The fact that Pastner had been unable to secure a top-25 win is a flaw that other coaches have used against him in recruiting, and given fans and media members reason to question his ability as a coach. It will be interesting to see how Memphis plays now that the pressure is off them, but that is no longer a worry of Josh Pastner and the Memphis Tigers. No longer do they have to hear about not having a top-25 win. No longer do they have to watch their seed in the NCAA Tournament be lower than expected because they don’t have any “big” wins. Now, let’s see if they can start making a habit of getting those “big” wins and improve their seeding for once.

Follow Robbie on Twitter @rmarbury

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