Clearly their opponent, the Connecticut Huskies, were not fazed. The Huskies moved one step closer to capturing the leagues’ postseason title with a dominating performance over the Tigers, cruising to an easy 72-53 win.
UConn (25-7) earned a season sweep over Memphis, topping them 83-73 on Jan. 16 (also in Memphis) and a month later, 86-81 win in overtime. The January win was ironically the last loss for the Tigers at home, stopping a modest nine-game home win streak.
In a matchup of two top-25 teams, the game was expected to be yet another showdown between two of the league’s premier guards in American Player of the Year, Shabazz Napier of UConn and Joe Jackson of Memphis. Surprisingly, neither player was a major factor in the scoring department, as Napier scored 11 points and Jackson scored just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting. In fact, the Tigers’ scoring drought continued up and down the roster, as they shot a dismal 26.4 percent from the floor and missed an alarming 17 free throws (20-of-37).
Junior German import Niels Giffey stole the show from the much higher touted players, blazing the nets with a 6-for-8 performance behind the 3-point line, on his way to a game-high 24 points for UConn, tripling his season scoring average of eight points a game. Classmates DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright contributed 13 and 11 points, respectively, to round out the Huskies’ scoring effort.
Jackson and Chris Crawford paced Memphis with 10 points apiece but neither player reached double figures until the game’s final two minutes.
A win or loss wasn’t going to affect either team’s status for selection into the NCAA Tournament, as both teams have been projected to be seeded in the 4-5 range. However, the further the Huskies advance could vault them in the 2-3 range when the field is announced.