Josh Pastner is off the hook.
It took 14 tries over five seasons but the Memphis coach and his Tigers captured the first victory over a top-25 team in Pastner's tenure Sunday by beating No. 5 Oklahoma State 73-68 in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
Pastner was 0-13 against top 25 teams prior to beating the Cowboys. The drought dogged Pastner every time the Tigers have faced a ranked opponent.
It's not like his record against ranked teams won't continue to be mentioned - at least until The Tigers earns a few more victories against the top 25 - but finally earning this first win has to be a relief.
The No. 21 Tigers also avenged an ugly loss two weeks ago at Oklahoma State.
Senior guard Joe Jackson promised Memphis would at least redeem itself with a more competitive game than the 21-point loss it suffered in Stillwater. The Tigers made good by doing a better job defending Cowboys' star Marcus Smart who scored a career best 39 points in the first meeting.
Smart finished with 12 points and eight rebounds Sunday and committed two crucial turnovers in the final 12 seconds that allowed Memphis to seal the victory at the foul line.
Smart drove to the basket twice in the final 2 minutes and scored holding it to a one-possession game, but he made poor decisions on a handful of possessions late in the game trying to do too much.
Pastner earned this victory as much as Smart gave it away. With the Cowboys needing a 3-pointer to tie in the final seconds, Pastner directed his team to switch off the men they were guarding on defense, which led to Smart's final turnover.
Memphis didn't play much defense and made just 41 percent of its field goals and 15 percent of its 3-pointers in the first game. It improved in all those areas, particularly defensively Sunday.
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