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January 11, 2014

Tigers Grind Out Tough Win on the Road Over Temple

The No. 22/24 Memphis Tigers (12-3, 3-1 AAC) went into the Liacouras Center looking for their third win of the season in the American Athletic Conference. Coming off a big win over the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals, Tiger Nation was expecting victory against the Temple Owls, who entered the game riding a three-game losing streak.

Just like any other conference game the Tigers have to play in the AAC in 2014, this one wasn't going to be a cake walk. Memphis found a way to win another tough game on the road as they defeated the Temple Owls (5-9, 0-4 AAC), 79-69.

The Tigers started the game on an 11-2 run. Senior guard Chris Crawford scored four of the 11 points for Memphis, sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin would knock down two free throws and freshman forward Austin Nichols made a layup with the assist by Crawford. Senior guard Geron Johnson knocked down the first three of the game.

Temple would counteract Memphis' run with a run to make the game interesting. The Owls would outscore Memphis 16-8 to close the gap to 20-19. Senior guard Dalton Pepper was a big part of the run as he had 10 points at the end of the first.

The Owls were able to keep the game interesting for the remainder of the first half. Pepper went to the line after a foul by Crawford and knocked down both shots, giving the Owls their first lead of the game at 21-20 lead with 7:41 left in the first.

Memphis would take the lead right back with two free throws made by Goodwin.

The teams would trade baskets and the game was all tied up at 24 apiece when Michael Dixon knocked down two shots from the line. After the free throws, Dixon would score five more consecutive points to give Memphis a 29-24 lead with 4:30 left in the first.

Temple struck back, finishing the half by outscoring Memphis 13-7 to take a 37-36 lead into the locker room.

As a team, Memphis shot 37.5 percent (12-of-32) from the field and 22.2 percent (2-of-9) from long range in the first half. Memphis did a solid job from the line, making 10-of-14 (71.4 percent). The Tigers stayed in the game largely on the strength of a 28-19 rebounding advantage over the Owls in the first.

Goodwin was the leading scorer at halftime for Memphis with 11 points while grabbing six rebounds. Senior guard Joe Jackson was held scoreless in the first half going 0 for 5 in the first period.

Temple had two of their players to score in double figures in the first half. Sophomore guard Quenton DeCosey, like Pepper, did damage to Memphis finishing with 10 points in the first 20 minutes.

Going into the second half, Temple kept Memphis on their heels with a driving layup by Pepper to give the Owls a three-point lead. Temple would hold their biggest lead of the game when they were up 48-44 early in the second.

The lead would be erased quickly with four straight points scored by Goodwin. DeCosey, for the Owls, helped Temple grab a 49-48 lead by making one out of three shots from the line.

From there, Memphis would take control of the game for good. Dixon caught fire, knocking down two consecutive jump shots from the three-point line. Crawford would get in on the action by nailing a three of his own to give Memphis a 57-51 lead with 11:33 remaining in the game. Jackson, who was scoreless in the first half, made a dunk on the fast break to push Memphis' lead up to eight.

Junior forward Anthony Lee tried to keep Temple in the game as he made a monster dunk on the fast break to close the gap to 59-53. Temple wouldn't get any closer than five points with 4:16 left in the game when DeCosey made one out of two from the line to cut the Memphis lead to 67-62.

The Tigers would finish the game on a 12-7 run to keep the game out of reach.

Goodwin finished as the leading scorer for Memphis with a career-high 23 points and added 11 rebounds to his stat line. Dixon finished with 15 points, four assists, and two rebounds. Jackson added 10 points, seven assists, and three boards. Crawford and Nichols had nine points apiece.

Memphis finished the game shooting a respectable 45.5 percent (30-of-66) from the field, 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from long range, and 73.7 percent (14-of-19) from the free throw line. The Tigers totally dominated the rebounding battle 45-32, and outscored Temple 17-0 on second-chance points. Memphis also had a 42-26 edge in points in the paint, 14-9 in points off turnovers and 19-2 on fast breaks. The Tigers' bench outscored the Owls', 21-7.

Temple had three players to score in double figures. Pepper led the way in the scoring column with a game-high 24 points. DeCosey added 18 and Cummings pitched in 11 points. As a team, Temple shot 44 percent (22-of-50) from the field, 57.1 percent (8-of-14) from the three-point line, and 68 percent (17-of-25) from the free throw line.

The Memphis Tigers are done for now with road games for a time, as they will head back to the friendly confines of the FedEx Forum for a four-game home stretch. First up are the Connecticut Huskies (12-3, 0-2 AAC). The game is slated for Thursday, January 16 at 6 p.m. CST at the FEF. This game will be televised on ESPN and ESPN3.

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