Memphis takes down SMU in ranked AAC battle
Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Joe Jackson totaled 15 of his team-high 18 points after intermission, as No. 20 Memphis used a strong second half to dispatch 18th-ranked SMU, 67-58, at FedEx Forum.
"I was frustrated at halftime. I wanted to play better for myself and my teammates. I had to turn on an extra gear and get my game going," said the senior guard.
Austin Nichols contributed 14 and nine rebounds for the Tigers (23-8, 12-6 AAC), who shook off a 13-point loss to Cincinnati their last time out and avenged a 15-point loss to the Dallas-area program in early February.
Fifth-seeded Memphis will take on fourth-seed UConn in the quarterfinals of the AAC tourney on Thursday.
Nic Moore recorded 16 points and seven assists for the Mustangs (23-8, 12-6), who dropped their final two games after winning three straight. Markus Kennedy and Nick Russell each had 13 in the setback.
SMU rose to the third seed due to tiebreakers, and will face sixth-seeded Houston in the quarters.
The Tigers began the second half on a torrid pace, hitting nine of their first 11 field goals and scoring 21 of the first 30 points. SMU was forced to take a timeout following a Jackson layup with just over seven minutes played which provided the hosts a 47-39 edge.
Back-to-back triples a short time later from Chris Crawford pushed Memphis' advantage into double digits, at 53-41. Jackson's free throw upped the margin to 61-48 with 5:43 on the clock.
Buckets from Russell and Moore pulled the Mustangs to 61-54 nearly two minutes later, but Dixon's triple restored the Tigers' double-digit spread.
Kennedy's driving layup once again shrunk Memphis' lead to 64-58 inside of two minutes left, then Jackson countered with a three-point play and the hosts were up nine.
The Mustangs were subdued from that point, and missed their only decent shot attempt down the stretch.
"We had a hard time dealing when adversity hits. This is kind of typical for us," said SMU head coach Larry Brown. "We've always competed at a high level, and then, all of a sudden, a drop-off happens. We haven't taken that next step to be able to handle it."
Both teams played it close in the early going. SMU's 12-1 burst reversed a four-point deficit and turned it into a 24-17 advantage after a Moore triple with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half.
The Mustangs took a 30-26 lead to the break.
Memphis shot a sizzling 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the floor, including 6- of-13 from long range, in the second half and was good on 26-of-56 field goals for the contest ... Nichols added a game-best three blocks, while Russell and Michael Dixon turned the ball over four times apiece ... Crawford and Shaq Goodwin each recorded a game-high four steals.