Hot-shooting Memphis tops UAB

Normally, Memphis coach Josh Pastner prefers his team keeps its 3-point attempts to a minimum. From his vantage point, more than eight to ten attempts is excessive.

Normally, Memphis coach Josh Pastner prefers his team keeps its 3-point attempts to a minimum. From his vantage point, more than eight to ten attempts is excessive.

But on a night when Memphis shoots 58 percent from three? That philosophy is rendered moot.

"When you're hitting them, he doesn't care (how many you shoot)," said sophomore guard Will Barton. "What coach would?"

The Tigers (18-7, 8-2 Conference USA) sank a record 11 first-half 3-pointers and shot 53 percent overall en route to a 79-45 drubbing of UAB on Saturday night at FedExForum. Barton and sophomore guard Chris Crawford led the offensive attack with 16 points apiece.

The 34-point win, which was the Tigers' 13th straight against UAB, was the largest margin of victory in the series since a 94-56 Memphis win on March 8, 2008.

"This was most definitely one of our most dominant, if not the most dominant, performances of the season," Barton said. "We're just real focused and locked in."

Heeding Pastner's other offensive philosophy — the open man being the go-to man— the Tigers handed out 18 assists on 26 made baskets. The Tigers out-rebounded the Blazers, 33-20 and allowed just one offensive rebound.

Memphis opened the game on a 5-0 run after Crawford dropped in his first of four 3-pointers. UAB's Preston Purifoy responded with a three of his own to make it 5-3, but from there, it became Memphis' own shooting drill.

Given the green light by Pastner, the Tigers drilled their first six 3-pointers and took a 47-21 lead into halftime. By that time, junior forward D.J. Stephens, who entered the game with two career 3-pointers, had gotten in on the fun with a three of his own.

"D.J. can shoot," said sophomore forward Tarik Black, whose offensive services weren't as necessary as usual. "I don't know why he doesn't pop out more often. You can tell by the way he was shooting that it wasn't just lucky shots. Those were bottom of the net shots."

The Blazers shot 36.4 percent for the game. Cameron Moore and Jordan Swing, who together pushed the Tigers to the brink in their earlier matchup this season, combined for a 1-of-10 shooting effort and 4 total points.

"(UAB coach Mike Davis) is as good as an offensive coach there is, and they run some amazing stuff," Pastner said. "So for us to be able to have that type of defensive effort is a really positive thing."

As the Tigers enter the last few games of conference play, it seems as if they're playing their best basketball of the season. The Tigers are 13-2 since Dec. 22 and are tied with Southern Miss for first place in C-USA.

"This is what I've been telling people all along," Barton said. "That tough schedule was just gonna get us ready for conference and to play our best basketball late in the year. That's what we're doing right now.

"We know how it is to play in big games now, we know how to play in pressure (situations), and now we're learning how to close teams out when we have a big lead. All that stuff is just paying off for us."


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