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AP - Sports

Memphis coach Josh Pastner thinks a close defeat to a ranked opponent earlier this week will only make his team better.

The No. 15 Tigers have a chance to prove their coach right while continuing to get ready for their American Athletic Conference debut later this month Saturday night against Southeast Missouri State.

Memphis' rally from an eight-point deficit with less than six minutes to go fell short in a 77-75 loss to No. 16 Florida on Tuesday in New York. The Tigers (7-2) got within three points with 3:09 remaining and within two with 31 seconds left but couldn't draw even with the Gators.

"This was a high level game. It felt like a Sweet 16 game," Pastner said. "All you can ask for is to have the ball in your hand to tie or win the game and that's what we had and it didn't go our way but give Florida credit. We'll grow from this and get better."

They didn't help themselves by getting outrebounded 37-26 with Florida collecting 13 on the offensive glass. Memphis did have one of its more balanced scoring performances of the season with five players reaching double figures, led by team leader Joe Jackson's 17 points.

Jackson's shot in the final 10 seconds, however, was partially blocked.

''I was going to make something happen,'' he said. ''I was going to find someone, shoot or get fouled. Unfortunately it just didn't go in tonight."

Jackson had another subpar shooting performance, and is 8 of 24 in his last two games.

Shaq Goodwin, who is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points, scored seven on 1-of-4 shooting.

Memphis hosts Jackson State next Saturday before visiting South Florida on Dec. 31 for its AAC opener.

First, though, the Tigers will take on one of the nation's top scoring teams.

The Redhawks (7-3) are averaging 85.6 points, but 78.6 against eight Division I opponents. They had one of their lowest scoring performances of the season last Saturday in a 75-69 loss to visiting Illinois-Chicago. Leading scorer Jarekious Bradley was one of the bright spots with a career-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting and nine rebounds. The rest of the starters combined for 27 points on 27.6 percent shooting.

Bradley, one of five Memphis natives on his team, is averaging 22.8 points on 61.1 percent shooting in the last four games. He's averaging 19.5 for the season and is just ahead of another Memphian, senior forward Tyler Stone (18.1 ppg).

Memphis is facing Southeast Missouri for the first time since an 87-57 home victory Dec. 22, 2009.

The Redhawks lost their two games against ranked opponents last season by a combined 35 points.

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