Memphis Survives ECU, 61-58, in C-USA Opener
Jan. 8, 2011
By: Preston McClellan
MEMPHIS – Despite going scoreless from the floor for the final 5:23, Memphis (12-3; 1-0 C-USA) scrapped out a 61-58 victory over East Carolina Saturday afternoon in the Tigers’ Conference USA opener.
After giving up 104 points to Tennessee Wednesday, defense was clearly a focal point as Memphis held the Pirates to 5-of-17 (29.4 shooting) in the opening half. The Tigers also controlled the glass, outrebounding ECU 21-11 en route to a 33-21 first-half advantage.
“We got the win,” Memphis head coach Josh Pastner said. “But, to come off the way we played against Tennessee, I knew we would be tight.”
A slow second-half start would again prove troublesome for Memphis as the Pirates would outscore the Tigers 28-16, while starting 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, coming out the break to tie the game at 49.
The Pirates briefly held the lead at 52-51 after an and-one dunk from Darrius Morrow at the 7:16 mark. Memphis regained the lead on a pair of free throws from Tarik Black on its next possession but again found itself tied with ECU at 56 with 3:51 to play.
Memphis, however, is no stranger to late game drama, as seven of its 12 victories this season have been by nine or fewer points, and the Tigers again rallied late for the win against the Pirates.
Wesley Witherspoon stepped to the line with 2:54 to play and calmly swished two free throws through to put Memphis ahead for good, 58-56. Free throws from Antonio Barton and Joe Jackson on the Tigers’ next two possessions preserved the Tigers lead, and Chris Crawford’s steal of the ECU inbounds pass with 2.5 seconds reaming sealed the victory.
Black finished with 12 points and seven rebounds while battling foul trouble throughout the second half to lead the Tigers. Coleman finished with 11 points, including going 7-of-12 from the charity stripe, as the senior finished in double figures for the second straight game.
Witherspoon, who was limited to just two points and six minutes in the opening half due to foul problems, finished with eight points, four coming in the last five minutes of play. Joe Jackson, Antonio Barton, Will Baton, and Crawford all finished with six points apiece.
Morrow led the way for the Pirates, finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds in a game-high 33 minutes. Jamar Abrams (15) and Brock Young (10) were the only other ECU players to finish in double figures.
With the victory, Memphis won its 10th consecutive C-USA home opener and seventh straight C-USA opening game overall. East Carolina jumped out to an early 10-3 lead, but a 17-3 Memphis run from 16:45 to 7:07 in the first half turned a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead, 20-13.
Memphis now improves to 9-0 when leading at the half; Memphis’ last loss after leading in the first half came against SMU, Jan. 30, 2010. The Tigers had their first negative turnover-assist ratio of these season. Despite coming into the contest leading C-USA in assists, Memphis managed just nine assists to go along with 20 turnovers.
Memphis travels to Dallas, Texas for its first C-USA road test Wednesday against SMU. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. with the game being televised by TWC Sports.