Through ten games this season, the one facet of this Memphis team that can't be questioned is its offensive firepower.
But in an 85-75 win against the Bison at FedExForum Monday during which Lipscomb hit 10 threes, the Tigers' DNA as a team seemed to further materialize — elite offensively, but for the athletes they boast, far too underwhelming on the defensive end.
"Today, (our defense) was terrible," Barton said. "So whatever heat — whatever people are gonna say — it's well-deserved."
The Tigers, a team that so often creates their offense on defensive pressure, forced just five Lipscomb turnovers, a season-low. Although the Bison shot just 44.4 percent from the field, they grabbed 13 offensive boards which led to the 21 second chance points.
And while Memphis won the rebounding margin 39-27, the double-digit offensive boards allowed the Bison to turn what should've been a convincing win for the Tigers into a hard-fought game that wasn't decided until a three-pointer by Barton with 1:43 left to play.
"If we hold them to 8 second chance points or 8 offensive rebounds, we probably end up winning the game differently," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "We can put the ball in the basket, that's not the issue. We've gotta guard guys."
The Tigers shot 56.9 percent from the field and had 18 assists on 33 made field goals, which has become typical for a team as offensively capable as the Tigers.
But Pastner has harped all season long about the Tigers not closing out on the perimeter and leaving shooters open, defensive lapses that give less talented teams opportunities to beat Memphis.
Against the Tigers, the Bison shot 10-for-25 from three, several of which came after offensive rebounds.
Jordan Burgason and Deonte Alexander combined to go 8-of-15 from three. Both finished with 16 points.
"It's not effort," Pastner said. "Our guys know what to do. It's just doing it. It's just getting out there and utilizing their athleticism and being able to guard guys."
With 8 minutes and 25 seconds left to play, Thomas scored a jumper that extended the Tigers' lead to 13, 71-57. The Bison responded with a 13-2 run that made it a three-point game, 73-70, with just under five minutes.
"We gotta get on one accord," said junior forward Ferrakohn Hall, who had seven points and three rebounds. "I know with myself, with the team, I have to get myself on one accord and knowing where my teammates are defensively, to where I'll know somebody will grab that defensive rebound if I don't."
It's become somewhat of a problem for Pastner, as so often during his tenure the Tigers have allowed clearly inferior and overmatched opponents to hang around by way of three-pointers and second chance opportunities.
"(We're not playing with) enough energy, being lazy," Barton said. "Going through the motions. We just didn't defend well tonight. I'm disappointed. We just didn't defend well."
The Tigers led by just five at halftime, 45-40, despite shooting 63.3 percent from the field. They fell behind 14-8 with 14:29 left in the first half but rattled off a 13-1 run behind two straight three-pointers by sophomore guard Joe Jackson, who finished with 10 points.
Memphis got off to a hot start in the second half with a 10-3 run propelled by a 5-of-7 shooting start over the first four minutes.
"There were some spurts where we played really well today," Pastner said. "We had the lead, then we gave them some second chances, and it allowed them to hit a couple threes that gave them confidence to get back in the game."
For the Tigers, it's probably an appropriate time to do a little soul searching as they prepare for a pivotal rematch against No. 17 Georgetown on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The Hoyas beat Memphis in the Maui Invitational, 91-88 in overtime, last month, and a win over Georgetown could propel the Tigers back into the national conversation.
"We just have to regroup and reorganize," Black said. "We play hard out there. We play hard. We just have to get to the right spots at the right time and that's what practice is for. We gotta get back in the lab and regroup and reorganize."