MEMPHIS (AP) – After a demoralizing home loss to Texas-El Paso last Saturday, the Memphis Tigers wanted to show they had not lost their edge.
It took until the second half Wednesday night against East Carolina for the Tigers to display they were back in control.
Will Barton scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Joe Jackson added 13 points and seven assists as Memphis pulled away in the second half to defeat East Carolina 70-47.
The Tigers (20-8, 10-3 Conference USA) outscored East Carolina 33-15 after halftime, building their lead to as many as 25 points. The 15 second-half points were a season low in a half for the Pirates (12-14, 3-10), who lost their fourth straight.
"We really got after them," Barton said, calling the Tigers' second-half defensive effort one of their best of the season. "Just real aggressive. Getting in passing lanes, containing their penetration – we just did some good things in the second half."
Antonio Barton added 11 points for Memphis, hitting 3 of 4 shots from the field.
Miguel Paul led the Pirates with 20 points, 17 of them in the first half. Shamarr Bowden finished with 13 points.
East Carolina shot just 28.6 percent for the game (14 of 49) and was hampered by a season-high 26 turnovers, eight of them by Paul.
Memphis shot 46.4 percent (26 of 56) from the field, but only 38.7 percent (12 of 31) after the break. Still, that was much better than East Carolina, which shot 22.2 percent (6 of 27) in the second half. Half of the Pirates' 14 field goals in the game came from outside the arc (7 of 18, 38.9 percent).
"In the second half, the wheels came off," East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo said. "We turned it over way too many times, and that was something we had talked about at the half.
"The turnovers really crushed us, and we couldn't get back in the game because of it."
The Tigers scored 28 points off turnovers and outscored East Carolina 48-12 in the paint.
The game, particularly the second half, was a sharp contrast to the Tigers' 60-58 loss Saturday night to UTEP. Coach Josh Pastner was so bothered by his team's approach in that game that he shut his players out of their locker room afterward, would not allow them to wear any practice gear with Memphis on it, and took their names off the back of the jerseys worn Wednesday night.
"I've told them it's about Memphis, and it's a privilege and an honor to wear that," Pastner said. "It's not a right. I didn't like their attitude on Saturday, so I wanted to take some things away."
Players said they got the message.
"It helped us realize that we were on kind of a high horse, and it was time to step down and take care of business," said Memphis forward Tarik Black, who had nine points and nine rebounds against East Carolina.
Memphis shot 56 percent (14 of 25) and led 37-32 after a first half marred by poor ball-handling by both teams. The Tigers committed 13 turnovers and East Carolina 14.
Will Barton had 17 points and Jackson 11 at the break.
Paul led the Pirates with 17 points, hitting all four of his first-half shots, as East Carolina connected on five of its first seven from outside the arc.
But Paul, the Pirates' leading scorer with a 15.7 average, missed five of his six shots in the second half.
Memphis was ahead most of the first half, its lead reaching eight points on several occasions. But East Carolina used its long-range shooting to erase the advantage.
The Tigers responded with 10 unanswered points for their halftime lead.
"I thought in the first half we did all right," Lebo said, "but in the second half we just ran into too much athleticism, too much speed and too much quickness."
Memphis opened the second half with a 10-2 run to take the lead to double digits, then the Tigers settled into a bit of a rhythm.
Memphis continued to build its advantage the rest of the way, the 25-point lead coming with 1:45 to play.
Will Barton said it was the kind of game that should be expected from Memphis, acknowledging that Saturday's loss was a bad one.
"We just got comfortable," Barton said, noting the Tigers' four-game winning streak before the UTEP loss. "Any time this team has gone on a winning streak the last two years, we lose after about five or six games because we get comfortable. We have to learn to win six and keep rolling.
"We're an elite team. We're not a team that no one has ever heard of. We're Memphis. We're expected to win six games straight."
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