The Tigers escaped Greenville, North Carolina, tonight with their 11th consecutive win, but only after holding off the East Carolina Pirates in an ugly, uneven affair. Chris Crawford and Joe Jackson combined to hit four free throws in the final 14 seconds to seal the win.
Memphis fell behind 10-4, and had to rally for a 28-27 halftime lead. Junior forward Adonis Thomas went on a shooting binge over the game's first 20 minutes, but missed nine of his twelve shots from the field. The Tigers shot 32 percent for the first half while ECU was hardly better (35 percent).
The game remained tight over the first five minutes of the second half, then the Tigers went on a long-distance shooting spree, with treys from Joe Jackson (actually two), Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson expanding the U of M lead to 13 with just over 12 minutes to play. The Pirates closed within four (51-47), but the Tigers again answered, extending the lead to 11 on back-to-back buckets from Crawford and Jackson. ECU reduced a 9-point deficit to three over the game's final two minutes, Prince Williams converting a three-point play with 16 seconds remaining. Crawford and Jackson, though, were perfect from the free throw line after intentional fouls by the Pirates.
It was a big night for Jackson, the junior from White Station High School. He scored a career-high 26 points to lead all scorers and also tallied the 1,000th point of his career. Johnson added 13 points for the Tigers and Crawford had 11. Thomas took only one shot after halftime and finished with eight points. Memphis outrebounded ECU, 49-33, with Shaq Goodwin pulling down 10.
The win gives Memphis a record of 17-3 (6-0 in Conference USA play) and a sweep of its two games with ECU this season. They return home Saturday to host Tulsa at FedExForum (1 p.m. tip-off).
NOTES: Jackson is the 48th player to score 1,000 points for the U of M and the 24th native Memphian in the club. He's the first Bluff City product to reach the plateau since Jeremy Hunt in 2007.