Tahlequah Daily Press

College Sports

February 2, 2013

Golden Hurricane blown out in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For once, Memphis grabbed a big lead and continued to extend the advantage until it reached a rout.

D.J. Stephens matched his career high with 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots as Memphis took an early lead and easily defeated Tulsa 94-64 on Saturday.

“I just decided to come out with the same mindset — defense first,” said Stephens, who was 6 of 7 from the field, including a 3-pointer. “They were playing off of me a little bit and I was getting open shots. I just decided to take them, and they were going in.”

Stephens’ hustling play in the first half allowed Memphis to lead by 17 points at halftime, and the Tigers (18-3, 7-0 Conference USA) continued to pour it on in the second half for their 12th straight win. Antonio Barton, who led the Tigers’ scorers with 16 points, couldn’t remember the last time Memphis put a team away so easily, despite the current winning streak.

“We played for 40 minutes. We didn’t let up,” Barton said. “We kept our offense superb and our defense was even better. We’ve got to put more games like this back-to-back. We’ve got to play the whole game.”

Chris Crawford added 12 points for Memphis, and Shaq Goodwin finished with 10 points.

Kauri Black led Tulsa (12-10, 4-4) with 14 points, while Scottie Haralson added 13 points. Pat Swilling Jr. scored 11 and Rashad Ray had 10 points for Tulsa, which lost its second straight and third in the last four.

“He’s been playing pretty good offensively the last few games,” Tulsa coach Danny Manning said of Black, who entered the game hitting 33 of his last 45 field goals but was 4 of 9 against Memphis. “There are still opportunities for him to be a little more aggressive.”

Memphis connected on 48.5 percent of its shots (32 of 66), while Tulsa was 19 of 56 from the floor (33.9 percent) and was hindered by 16 turnovers, which led to 21 points.

“They played harder than we did,” Manning said. “They had a lot of transition points and fast-break points. I think they had 49 points at the half, and, by my count, 42 of them were points in the paint, points off turnovers or fast-break.

“It wasn’t their set offense. We guarded their set offense. It was their transition.”

Stephens, who played only 16 minutes, provided the early spark for Memphis, hitting his first four shots and recording all of his 15 points in the first half.

Stephens not only connected on six of his seven shots, but grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots in the half, part of Memphis rejecting nine Golden Hurricane shots before the break.

That provided Memphis with a 49-32 lead at intermission. Stephens had told his teammates they needed to go out and have fun.

“That’s my goal every game,” the high-leaping Stephens said of the attitude. “We play a lot better when we go out there and have fun as a team and we just look to help the next guy out, and we just play together. That’s when we play our best basketball.”

Haralson and Swilling had eight points each for Tulsa, which shot 35.7 percent (10 of 28) in the first half, compared to 48.6 percent (17 of 35) for Memphis.

Memphis’ 12 turnovers in the game contributed to 18 Golden Hurricane points.

Memphis opened the second half with a 20-7 rally to carry the lead to 30 points. Most of that came from the reserves inserted early in the second half because coach Josh Pastner was upset with the starters’ intensity.

The Tigers eventually built the lead to as many as 35 points with just over 8 minutes remaining. By then, any worries about squandering the lead like they have in other games this season had faded. And while Pastner was happy putting two halves together for an easy victory, he said it was a matter of continuing to play winning basketball, no matter the margin.

“To win 12 in a row is not an easy feat. To win 15 of 16 is not an easy thing,” the Memphis coach said. “We have continued to get better. Do we have room for growth? Absolutely we do. . We haven’t hit our ceiling.”

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