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VOL. 127 | NO. 41 | Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hot-Shooting Memphis Beats Central Florida 84-55

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MEMPHIS (AP) – The Memphis Tigers wanted to make sure Central Florida did not have a chance to beat them on a last-second play this time.

Will Barton had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Memphis shot better than 60 percent most of the second half and the Tigers won their third straight with a 84-55 victory over the Knights on Tuesday night.

The game was a reversal from the Jan. 18 game at UCF, which the Knights won 68-67 for their only victory in the 12 games between the schools.

"We won," senior forward Wesley Witherspoon said when asked the difference between the games. "It's going to be tough to come into the FedExForum (the Tigers' home floor), when our crowd is into the game, and beat us. It will have to be extreme circumstances."

UCF coach Donnie Jones knew his team would face Memphis' best. After the win at home, the Knights fans rushed the court to celebrate.

"When you beat a team like this at your place and celebrate like we did, you have to understand that when you walk into their place, you better be ready," Jones said. "We didn't handle the punch they threw at us very well."

Tarik Black added 14 points, connecting on 7 of 8 shots for Memphis, while Witherspoon, playing in his final home game, finished with 15 points.

Chris Crawford added 11 for the Tigers (22-8, 12-3 Conference USA), who maintained their hold on first place. The win earned the Tigers at least a tie for the conference regular-season title.

"We played hard, we defended, we rebounded and we came out with a lot of energy," Barton said. "That's all it was. We were focused."

Isaiah Sykes led the Knights (20-9, 9-6) with 13 points. Keith Clanton, UCF's leading scorer at 15 points a game, was limited to seven, while Marcus Jordan, who averages 14.5 points a game, had three, hitting only one of his six shots.

The Knights were hindered by poor shooting most of the night and 18 turnovers. UCF shot 38.8 percent (19 of 49) compared to Memphis' 58.9 percent (33 of 56).

"We had our chances, but you just have to score," Jones said of the Knights' play. ".It is very hard when we aren't getting any offense from Marcus (Jordan) and Keith (Clanton). Those two guys have got to score when they have chances, but we just didn't have shots go down."

Memphis shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) in the first half to overcome 11 turnovers and take a 33-18 lead into the break.

Neither team had a player in double figures as both dealt with turnover problems. UCF matched the Tigers' 11 miscues.

The first half was played primarily inside as 26 of Memphis' points came from the paint. The Knights had 12 points inside.

Part of the reason for all the scoring inside was the inaccuracy from outside the arc. The two teams missed their first 12 combined shots from long range.

Witherspoon connected on the only 3-pointer of the half in the closing seconds to provide the Tigers' halftime margin.

It was also Memphis' only points outside the paint in the first half. Four points came from the foul line.

The Tigers would end the night outscoring UCF in the paint 44-24.

"I thought Joe Jackson did an amazing job on Marcus Jordan," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said, adding that Jackson had 10 assists. "This was a total team effort. Tarik (Black) was 7 of 8 from the floor. Wesley (Witherspoon) was terrific. He hit a big 3 at the end of the first half. Will (Barton) had a double-double."

The Knights took an early lead, but Memphis rattled off a 16-1 run for the first double-digit advantage of the game. The Tigers extended the lead to as many as 16 before halftime as UCF shot around 25 percent during the half before finishing 7 of 23 (30.4 percent).

Even free throws were a challenge in the half, as the Knights were 4 of 10 (40 percent) from the line.

Memphis continued to push the lead after halftime, hitting six of its first nine shots to extend the advantage to 22 points before the midway point of the second half.

Black was scoring inside, and Witherspoon connected on another 3-pointer.

And the shooting display would not stop there as the Tigers eventually would hit 16 of their first 20 shots in the half, including 5 of 7 from outside the arc. The lead would keep climbing, reaching 38 points with 5:38 to play.

"Right now," Black said, "is the perfect time of the year to start clicking, find your mojo and finish out the rest of the season."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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