Adonis Thomas poured in 16 points and Antonio Barton scored 14 as No. 17 Memphis held on for a 65-54 win over Samford on Saturday in the opening round of the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis.
Joe Jackson added 13 points and four assists, while D.J. Stephens had five points and seven rebounds for the Tigers (2-0), who will take on Virginia Commonwealth on Thanksgiving in Nassau, Bahamas.
"You have to give Samford total credit. They played way better than we did, there is no question," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. "They had better energy and we had to grind it out and we got the W. I wasn't happy whatsoever. There is a lot we have to get better at. There is no question we have to get better in a hurry."
Tim Williams poured in a game-high 21 points, while Raijon Kelly and Connor Miller added 12 and nine points, respectively, for the Bulldogs (1-3), who will host Toledo on Wednesday.
"I'm not into moral victories, never have been and I never will be," said Samford head coach Bennie Selzer. "Those guys in that locker room are very disappointed, and they should be. They are extremely disappointed because we feel like we let one slip away."
Memphis led 54-42 with just over nine minute remaining after Thomas made a pair of free throws, but Samford used a 9-0 run to pull within 54-51 with 4:21 to play.
The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 11-3 the rest of the way to seal the win.
Samford kept it close through the first 12 minutes, trailing by three at 15-12 but a pair of Barton 3-pointers bookended a Crawford jumper to give Memphis a 25-19 cushion. The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 8-5 over the final 4:37 of the half to take a 33-24 lead into the break.
Memphis turned it over just six times while forcing 16 Samford turnovers ... The Tigers own a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Bulldogs.