Saturday, March 12, 2016

AAC Semifinals: Tigers 74, Tulane 54

Posted By on Sat, Mar 12, 2016 at 6:53 PM

The Memphis Tigers are heading to their first American Athletic Conference tournament championship. In beating Tulane Saturday in the semifinals, the U of M secured a spot against the Connecticut Huskies in Sunday's final. UConn (23-10) beat top-seeded Temple in the first semifinal today in Orlando.

Memphis led throughout against the 10th-seeded Green Wave, a team playing its third game in three days. Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin led the Tigers with 16 points each, Lawson falling one rebound shy of his 17th double-double (which would have tied the Memphis freshman record set by Keith Lee 34 years ago). Starting in place of the injured Avery Woodson, sophomore guard Markel Crawford added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis. (Woodson's status for Sunday's game is unknown. He injured his right shoulder Friday night in the quarterfinals against Tulsa.) Trahson Burrell scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Memphis held Tulane to 33 percent shooting from the field, even worse (5 for 22) from three-point range. The Tigers forced 18 turnovers and committed only eight. 

Sunday's game will be the Tigers' first tournament final since they won three consecutive Conference USA championships from 2011 to 2013. The Memphis program has won its last seven tourney finals, its last loss coming in the 2005 C-USA final (against Louisville) at FedExForum. Like this year, that game was do-or-die for Memphis when it comes to an NCAA tournament berth.

Now 19-14, the Tigers lost their previous two games against Connecticut, 81-78 on the road January 9th and 77-57 at FedExForum February 4th. The Huskies lost each of the first two AAC tournament championships (to Louisville in 2014 and to SMU last year). UConn is considered a likely selection for an at-large NCAA tournament bid even with a loss Sunday. The Tigers, on the other hand, will be bound for the NIT (at best) should they not cut down the nets tomorrow.

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