Tulsa, OK – Chris Crawford drained the go-ahead 3-pointer, and scored seven of his game-high 23 points in double overtime, as 20th-ranked Memphis outlasted Southern Miss, 91-79, in the Conference USA Tournament final.
Crawford added six assists and Joe Jackson poured in 22 points for the Tigers (30-4), who capped an undefeated run through the conference in the regular season and playoffs in their last campaign as a C-USA member. They will join the Big East.
"This is a very underappreciated league. This is a good basketball league," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "Experts will agree that this is a great league. We will definitely miss this league. The people involved with this league are great, and we will miss them."
Adonis Thomas totaled 19 points and D.J. Stephens contributed 12 as Memphis gained its third straight conference crown and seventh in the last eight years.
Daveon Boardingham tallied 19 points and eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles (25-9), who are still on the bubble after their plucky defeat. Dwayne Davis had 16 points, while Jonathan Mills added 15 points and a game-high 17 boards in the loss.
"We really feel like we should have won that game, honestly. We've gotten better all year, and we deserve a shot," Davis said of his team's chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
Crawford connected from beyond the arc to give Memphis a 78-76 advantage with 2:45 to play in double OT, and after a Thomas jumper, Crawford hit another from short range to make it 82-77. Following a Davis turnover, Jackson added a slam for a seven-point margin with 41 seconds on the clock.
Southern Miss couldn't make up the difference.
In a tightly-contested first half which featured five ties, neither team led by more than three points -- 16-13 for Memphis on a Crawford triple just after the midway point -- and the Tigers were up 29-27 at the break.
Memphis began to get separation thanks to a 9-2 run which pushed it ahead 51-47 on a Geron Johnson dunk with 5:33 remaining in regulation. Neil Watson hit two free throws, but a triple by Crawford pushed the Tigers' edge to 54-49 inside of four minutes to go.
When Watson hit the last of two from the line, it was a one-point margin, 54-53, with 1:48 remaining. A long trey from Crawford made it 57-53, Davis missed a layup at the other end, and Crawford connected on the next possession when his triple bounced off the rim and the glass before going through. Jerrold Brooks, though, countered from long distance to make it a four-point game once more.
Mills hit consecutive layups to pull the Eagles within 62-60, and after Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Watson beat the buzzer on a lay-in to send the game to overtime.
Davis sank a go-ahead triple for a 71-70 lead for USM with 33 seconds left in OT, and Tarik Black missed both free throw attempts for Memphis. Boardingham hit the last of two from the line with 22.6 to go for a two-point game, and Jackson countered with a short jumper to force a second extra session.
Memphis topped Tulane and Tulsa prior to Saturday's title contest, and has lost just one game in calendar year 2013 -- a 64-62 defeat at Xavier on Feb. 26 -- and has taken 24 of its last 25 games overall ... Saturday's win gave the Tigers their sixth total season sweep having also accomplished the feat in 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and last season ... Memphis posted its sixth 30-win season in program history and fifth in the last eight years ... Johnson had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists ... Watson finished with 11 points and four assists, but four turnovers and five fouls.