The Tigers finally have a win in Texas.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Memphis pulled out its third victory over Southern Miss this season (and 17th in a row dating back to January 2004). The win advances the Tigers (23-9) to the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament, where they'll face East Carolina Friday afternoon. The Pirates upset C-USA regular-season champion UAB in Thursday's first game. (If UTEP or Tulsa wins tonight, Memphis and ECU will play at 5:30 p.m. Friday. If both the Miners and Golden Hurricane are upset, the Tigers' game will tip off at 3 p.m.)
The Tigers dominated early against the Golden Eagles, leading 26-13 and 29-21 at halftime. But with seven minutes to play, the teams were tied at 48. Charles Carmouche hit a three-pointer from the left wing to the Tigers a 57-52 lead with three minutes left, and the Tigers held on down the stretch (despite three missed free throws and Tarik Black fouling out). Joe Jackson slammed home a dunk on a press-breaking give-and-go with Antonio Barton with less than 30 seconds to play to give the Tigers a 62-59 lead. He later committed a turnover that gave Southern Miss the ball under the Tiger basket with 11 seconds to play. An Ahyaro Phillips tip-in made the score 64-63, but Jackson followed with a pair of free throws to provide the winning margin. (The Eagles' D.J. Newbill banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key just after the final buzzer.)
Jackson led the Tigers with 15 points off the bench, his highest total since February 2nd. Antonio Barton added 12, with Will Barton and Charles Carmouche each contributing 10.
Friday's semifinal will be the third meeting between Memphis and East Carolina this season. The Tigers won at FedExForum on January 8th (61-58) and ECU won in Greenville on March 2nd (68-57). As the higher seed, the Tigers will again wear their home whites against the Pirates.