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VOL. 126 | NO. 254 | Friday, December 30, 2011

Memphis Cruises Past Robert Morris 64-47


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MEMPHIS (AP) – Memphis brought its defensive pressure and kept Robert Morris at bay for an easy win.

Will Barton had 27 points and 13 rebounds and Memphis held Robert Morris under 20 percent shooting for most of the game as the Tigers defeated the Colonials 64-47 on Thursday night.

"I thought overall we did a good job of pressuring their shots," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said of the intensity. "(We) made them shoot contested shots. I felt for the most part, we rotated well. We had good ball pressure. We just had good energy."

Barton was 10 of 15 from the field, including a career-high five 3-pointers. Adonis Thomas added 15 for the Tigers (7-5), who hit 11 of their first 16 shots in the second half to put the game away, eventually leading by 28 points.

Lucky Jones was the only Robert Morris player in double figures, scoring 10 points. Velton Jones, the Colonials leading scorer at 16.6 points a game coming in, saw his streak of 19 straight games in double figures snapped. He recorded seven points, hitting only 2 of 13 shots from the field.

The Colonials (10-4) finished the night shooting 23.2 percent (16 of 69), including 16.7 percent on 3-pointers (3 of 18).

"Just find the shooters, harassing their guards, digging down in the post, running them off the 3-point line," Barton said of the defensive keys. "Making them do things they don't want to do. That's what we did."

Part of Robert Morris' poor shooting came due to Memphis' interior defense, which tallied a season-high 13 blocks, including a career-high seven by Tarik Black.

"That was lucky, for real," Black said. "I was in the right place at the right time, and I jumped. I guess I had perfect timing. I try to be at least a mediocre shot-blocker. I guess tonight was just that night."

The Memphis defense offset 20 Tigers turnovers, and allowed the Colonials to corral 23 offensive boards. Still, Memphis outrebounded Robert Morris 42-39.

"Half the credit has to go to Memphis and just their athleticism and their length," Robert Morris coach Andrew Toole said of his team's shooting performance. "They were really active early, getting out on our shooters, making us take difficult shots. Some of those have to fall, and you have to get a little bit lucky in situations like this.

"Even the good looks we got were a bit rushed."

Robert Morris struggled from the field from the outset, ending the first half at 19.4 percent shooting (6 of 31). Memphis shot 47.8 percent (11 of 23) before intermission, including 3 of 5 (60 percent) from outside the arc.

That helped the Tigers take a 32-18 lead into the locker room. Barton had 15 at halftime to lead Memphis, hitting 5 of 7 from the field.

Part of the problem for Robert Morris was a Memphis defense that was turning away shots at the rim. The Tigers blocked eight shots in the half.

"We played really on our heels early in the game," Toole said. "And you're never going to have a lot of success when you are playing on your heels. In our league (the Northeast Conference), we can attack the rim and get some of those shots off."

Memphis opened the second half with a 12-2 rally and was never threatened the rest of the way.

It was quite a change from the Tigers' last game – a 70-59 loss at Georgetown that led to a near two-hour postgame, closed-door meeting between the team and Pastner. Down the stretch Thursday night, with the game easily in hand, Memphis got a bit lackadaisical, which Pastner noted. But overall, the mood was much different in the Tigers locker room.

"We're in a state right now where we've got to bring it," Barton said. "We can't really relax. We're not undefeated. We're not 9-1. We're not the No. 1 team in the country. We have no time to be out there relaxing because no (opponent) is scared."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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