There are truths that seem to crossover to all sports. Defense does, in fact, win championships, home field or home court advantage does give you points and the team who turns the ball over will eventually lose. Just ask Josh Pastner and his Memphis Tigers. The Tigers turned the ball over 18 times Saturday, culminating in an 86-81 loss to the Connecticut Huskies.
Sure, Shabazz Napier had 34 points, and the Huskies shot more free throws than the Tigers. But, a team simply can’t turn the ball over 18 times and expect to beat a top-25 opponent. Today, the Tigers lost the turnover battle by 12 (18-6), and in the five years Pastner has been at Memphis, turnovers have been instrumental to his poor record versus the AP Top 25.
Pastner’s record versus the AP Top 25 now stands at 3-16 over the last five years. In those 16 losses, the Tigers have turned the ball over a whopping 14.7 times per game. Today’s 18 turnovers overshadowed what otherwise was a tremendous offensive performance. The Tigers shot 55 percent from the field against the Huskies, led by Top 50 Naismith Player of the Year candidate Joe Jackson’s 24 points and seven assists. They shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) from the three-point line and out-rebounded the Huskies by 10.
Normally, a team can expect to win with numbers like those. But not the Tigers. Pastner’s team throws as many one-handed passes as they do two-handed ones, often looking for the spectacular when the simple, yet sure bounce pass would do just fine. A senior-led team full of former high school All-Americans should be a fundamental one. It should be a sound team, one that can easily put less talented teams away when it shoots 55 percent from the field. Instead, the Tiger’s bobble and throw away the best opportunities, whether it be a lay-up or a must-win AAC road game late in the season.
Pastner’s Tigers have three more games left versus top 25 teams. Three more games to enhance their seeding for the NCAA tournament. The Tigers are talented enough to make a deep run into March, but if they are not more careful with the ball, all the talent is about to fumbled away.