It looks like we all bought into the Memphis hype too heavily.
The No. 8 Tigers came into the NCAA tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country, but they ran into a St. Louis team that did exactly what they needed to do to beat Memphis. They controlled the tempo, they didn’t allow the Tigers to get out into transition and they played terrific defense, especially down the stretch. And they won, 61-54.
Rick Majerus is known for his ability to coach in tournament situations. In fact, we dedicated an entire post to that simple fact this afternoon. The man has his quirks, but he is as good as anyone in this business when it comes to putting his team in a position to win.
And that is precisely what he did on Friday night. He built a game plan that would allow his team to succeed.
But if anyone thinks that all of the credit falls onto the massive shoulders of Majerus, you are doing a disservice to the players on the floor.
The bottom-line is this: St. Louis executed when it mattered the most. Brian Conklin and Kwamaine Mitchell, who finished with 22 points and hit the biggest shot of the game when he pulled up from about 30 feet and buried a three to give St. Louis a 48-44 lead, hit big shot after big shot down the stretch. They had all 14 points in a 14-2 run that turned a four point deficit into an eight point lead.
Meanwhile, Will Barton, Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford were struggling. For every great play and big shot St. Louis made, Memphis took a bad shot or turned the ball over.
Majerus outcoached Josh Pastner.
But St. Louis made the plays down the stretch, and that’s why they won.