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February 29, 2012If this game was any indication of what The University of Memphis Tigers basketball team (22-8, 12-3 in Conference USA) could do to teams, then the rest of America needs to be on notice. The Tigers embarrassed the UCF Knights last night, giving them payback from a loss earlier this season, en route to an 84-55 victory on Senior Night.
"Great win, I'm really proud of the guys," said Josh Pastner, head coach of the Tigers. "That's a good Central Florida team. They're big, they're talented, but we've gotten better and it was due to our defensive effort."
The Tigers were never threatened in this game. By halftime they had a 33-18 advantage - by way of senior Wesley Witherspoon's three-pointer to beat the halftime buzzer, and the lead had grown to 37 at one point in the game at 81-44. The Tigers shot 53.8 percent in the first half, 63.3 percent for the second half and 58.9 percent for the game. But what was more eye-popping was the Memphis defense. The Tigers held the Knights to just 7-for-23 shooting in the first half and 19-for-49 (38.8 percent) for the game.
"I sound like a broken record, but we've gotten a lot better since Christmas break," Pastner said. "I think our non-conference schedule allowed us to see some things that we needed to do, and that's why we were able perform on the defensive end of the floor."
Nine of the 13Tigers that played scored in the game. Four Tigers scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Will Barton led all scorers with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Sophomores Tarik Black and Chris Crawford each chipped in 14 points and 11 points respectively. But no points were more beloved than the 15 points scored by Wesley Witherspoon and the three points scored by Preston Laird. Both graduating seniors went out in style on their last regular season home game.
"This was a nice way to send me and Preston off," Witherspoon said. "Our teammates said that they were going to come out and give it their all, and that's exactly what they did."
Not all news about this game came out positive. Starting sophomore guard Antonio Barton injured his foot on a play right before halftime and it was initially ruled that he had broken his foot and would be out the rest of the season. But upon further review from doctors, Barton will be listed as day-to-day with a mid foot sprain and bone bruise.
The Tigers go for the outright C-USA title this Saturday as they travel to Tulsa. Game time is scheduled for 11 a.m.