A lackluster first half performance turned into a rout and then a fight between the University of Memphis Tigers (14-6, 5-1 in Conference USA) and the Rice Owls (11-10, 2-4 in C-USA). Memphis used an 11-1run right before halftime to open the game up 35-23 by halftime, and then closed out the game in the second in en route to a 73-51 drubbing of the Owls.
"We started the game a little rusty, but by the second half everyone shot we took, we felt like it was going in," said Chris Crawford, sophomore guard for the Tigers.
The Tigers continued their hot streak as they built their lead over Rice by as many as 23 points. Three Tigers scored in double figures, led by Crawford's 15 points and seven rebounds. Antonio Barton scored 11 points, including 3-for-4 from three point range, and sophomore forward Tarik Black chipped in with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting, but left the game early due to an ejection.
The play of the night came when a Tigers steal led to a fastbreak by sophomore guard Joe Jackson. As Jackson was going up for a dunk, Rice's Tamir Jackson fouled him hard, sending him to the ground and prompting both teams' team bench to clear - thus ejecting three Tigers players (Black, Will Barton and Trey Draper) and Rice's Jackson for the flagrant foul, and having Pastner run unto the court to help save his players.
"We got clarification that Tarik, Will and Trey will not be out for Saturday's game," said Josh Pastner, head coach for the Tigers. "I know Tamir well, Tamir's a really good young man. It was one of those things where I was protecting our players.
Both teams shot well in this game. The Tigers finished the game shooting 27-for-63 (42.9 percent) and the Owls shot 17-for-42 (40.5 percent) for the game. Both teams also shot it well from behind the arc - with Memphis going 6-for-15 (40.0 percent) and the Owls shot at a 44.4 percent clip (4-for-9). But despite the horrid defense by the Tigers, Pastner believes his team is still improving.
"I been telling you guys that the idea is to not be peaking at the beginning of the season, but to be peaking towards the end," Pastner said. "Since Christmas break, we've gotten better - we keep getting better every game and we will continue to get better every day. But it's got to carry over.