MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Samford gave No. 17 Memphis a scare on Saturday night.
Tim Williams had 21 points and six rebounds, and Raijon Kelly added 12 points and five assists, but Samford faded at the end losing 65-54 to the Tigers in an opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
Samford (1-3) was within 54-51 with 4:21 to play, but Memphis was able to convert all eight of its free throws in the final minute, part of the Tigers outscoring the Bulldogs 11-3 down the stretch.
Kelly's three free throws in the final 4:21 were the only scoring for the Bulldogs.
"I'm not into moral victories; never have, never will," first-year Samford coach Bennie Seltzer said. "Those guys in that locker room are very disappointed, and they should be. They are extremely disappointed because we felt like we let one slip away."
Samford was playing its second ranked team in three days. The Bulldogs lost to No. 2 Louisville 80-54 on Thursday. They have not defeated a ranked opponent since a victory over St. John's, which was No. 15 when Samford got the win on Nov. 19, 1999.
Seltzer pointed to troubles handling the ball as a key to the loss. Samford had 16 turnovers in the game.
"I think they got 20 points off our turnovers," Seltzer said. "That's the game, so our guys are extremely disappointed. As a coach, I'm proud of their effort. I thought we played hard, but we're supposed to."
Adonis Thomas scored 16 points, while Antonio Barton added 14 points to lead the Memphis offense.
Joe Jackson finished with 13 points, four assists and three steals for Memphis (2-0), but it took the Tigers connecting on free throws in the final minute to finally grab the victory as Memphis was taken out of its normal up-tempo game. Samford held the Tigers to only two fast-break points.
"I was disappointed in our lack of everything," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "I thought we played slow. I thought we were really slow. I thought we were slow in all areas. We were slow offensively and defensively. ... Our pace wasn't good."
The Tigers, who struggled to create any buffer from the Bulldogs in the first half, seemed to take control of the game, building a 54-42 lead with just over 9 minutes left when Thomas converted two free throws.
But Samford answered with nine straight points -- four from Williams and five from Connor Miller (nine points) to get within three points.
Jackson split a pair of free throws for Memphis, then Thomas scored four straight points, the last two starting the final run of free throws to preserve Tigers' win.
Memphis carried a 33-24 lead into halftime, primarily by protecting the basketball. The Tigers had only one turnover compared to 10 for Samford.
That offset the Bulldogs' shooting 53 percent for the half. The Samford offense was focused primarily on Williams, who had nine points in the half, missing only one of his five shots.
Memphis initially did do a better job of controlling the freshman forward after he scored the Bulldogs' first two baskets, recording all of Samford's first five points.
Barton had eight points to lead Memphis at the half.
"We started out a little slow," said Barton, who provided a spark off the bench. "We've got to start off the game better with more intensity and more patience."
Pastner talked about how his team was unable to get untracked and run in transition, a style which suits the Tigers best. Instead, Samford dictated the pace much of the game.
"We are not a team that needs to play slow with our speed and athleticism," Pastner said. "We were slow, and our guard play has to be better. I don't want to come down and run set plays. I want to get into the flow and pace."
And as Memphis has done in previous seasons, they are struggling early, heading into Thursday's game against VCU at Nassau in The Bahamas.
"I promise you we haven't peaked," Pastner said. "And I promise, we are not going into the game on Thursday being cocky or anything. I can promise you that. This will give us an opportunity to teach. We've got to be better than what we played (Saturday)".