Friday, March 11, 2016

AAC Quarterfinals: Tigers 89, Tulsa 67

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 11:01 PM

For the first time in almost two months, the Memphis Tigers have won consecutive games. Six days after beating East Carolina in their regular-season finale, the Tigers thoroughly dominated Tulsa to earn a trip to the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament in Orlando. Senior point guard Ricky Tarrant Jr. scored 11 of the Tigers' first 19 points and buried a buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the first half and give Memphis a 46-32 lead. By the time Tarrant hit back-to-back treys four minutes into the second half, Memphis led by 23 and had the game all but secured.

The victory — the Tigers' first AAC tourney win in three seasons as members of the league — sends the U of M to the floor Saturday afternoon to face Tulane. The tournament's tenth seed, the Green Wave (12-21) upset Houston amid reports that coach Ed Conroy will be dismissed at season's end. Top-seeded Temple will play Connecticut in the other semifinal Saturday. The Huskies beat Cincinnati earlier Friday in a game that required four overtimes.

Tarrant finished the game with 21 points and received support from Dedric Lawson — the AAC's Rookie of the Year — who earned his 16th double-double of the season (22 points and 12 rebounds), one shy of the record for a Memphis freshman (Keith Lee had 17 in 1981-82). Making just his fifth start of the season, Tiger senior Trahson Burrell scored 17 points to fill a scoring vacuum left by all-conference forward Shaq Goodwin who scored only six points after getting into foul trouble early.

Tulsa's all-conference guard tandem of Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard combined for 26 points but also committed six of the Golden Hurricane's 13 turnovers. Both teams shot 42 percent from the floor but Memphis connected on nine three pointers (out of 25 shots) while Tulsa hit only three of 15 from beyond the arc.

The win's only blemish for Memphis was an injury to junior guard Avery Woodson with less than eight minutes left in the contest. Woodson collided with a Tulsa player and went to the floor holding his right shoulder. Woodson scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds before leaving the floor.

The Tigers are now 18-14 for the season and 2-0 in the land of Mickey Mouse, where they beat UCF (97-86) in late January. Saturday's matchup will be a rubber game for the Tigers and Green Wave, Memphis having won at FedExForum on December 29th and Tulane having taken a rematch last month in New Orleans. Regardless of the outcome, a team that entered the AAC tourney with only one way of reaching the NCAA tournament will get its chance Sunday.

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