In an entertaining, up-and-down affair, the Tigers of Missouri won the battle of the Big Cats, 102-91, over Memphis in their Sweet 16 contest in Glendale, AZ.
The early portion of the game was a back-and-forth struggle. Memphis last held the lead at 28-26 on a Roburt Sallie three-pointer with 7:56 remaining in the first half. Missouri countered with a trey of their own by Matt Lawrence to take a lead they would not relinquish, 29-28.
The Big 12 conference tournament champions closed the first half with a 23-8 blitz to open up a 13-point bulge, 49-36. The 13-point deficit was the largest the Memphis Tigers had faced all season up until that point.
The 49 points equaled or exceeded the point total Memphis had allowed in 11 contests during the 2008-’09 season.
Missouri ended the first half in a most spectacular fashion.
After a dunk by Shawn Taggart cut the Memphis deficit to 10, 46-36, Mizzou freshman Marcus Denmon raced the ball up about one-third the length of the court and lofted a rainbow just fractions of a second before the halftime buzzer.
The shot touched nothing but nylon to send Missouri to the locker room with the momentum, leaving C-USA’s Tigers to hang their heads as they trudged off the court.
Missouri kept pouring it on as the second half began. Seemingly getting hotter with every possession, the Big 12 representative roared to a 24-point lead, 64-40, on another trey by Lawrence.
This represented the Memphis Tigers’ largest deficit of the season.
After Antonio Anderson cut the deficit to 64-42 with a tough floater in the lane, and came back from the under-16 media timeout to drain the and-1 free throw to trim the deficit to 21, C-USA’s finest proceeded to slash away at their huge deficit.
When Robert Dozier drained a free throw with 14:44 remaining in the game, Memphis had scored seven points in just 1:01 and nine in a row overall to trim the gap to 64-49.
A Dozier steal was followed by a Justin Safford steal for Mizzou, which was countered by an Anderson steal in Missouri’s backcourt. That was three turnovers in eight seconds. Anderson’s driving lay-up made the count 64-51.
The teams essentially traded baskets over the next six-and-a-half minutes until Memphis could muster yet another spurt.
Facing a 15-point deficit, 83-68, Memphis managed eight points in a row over the next 2:11 to get back within seven, 83-76. With both teams in the double-bonus, the rest of the night would essentially become a free throw contest to keep Missouri in the lead.
Though Mizzou was far from perfect from the line down the stretch, they did make enough freebies to keep Memphis from drawing any closer than six points on two different occasions.
J. T. Tiller led the Missouri charge with a season-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, driving to the rim virtually at will for most of the night. DeMarre Carroll supported him with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
Leo Lyons had a double-double with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, Zaire Taylor chipped in 14 points and Matt Lawrence scored 13, as Missouri placed all five starters in double figures.
Mike Anderson’s deep bench contributed 20 points, three rebounds and three assists to the victorious Mizzou effort.
Tyreke Evans had the finest game of his National Freshman of the Year campaign, scoring 33 points, snaring five rebounds, dishing four assists and collecting two steals.
Seniors Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson finished their record-breaking careers with strong efforts, as their career record slipped to an astounding 137-14, an NCAA record for victories in a four year career. This was their third 33-4 season, after finishing 38-2 last year.
Dozier woke up in a huge way after the half to finish with 19 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, two assists and one block. Anderson managed 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, but was plagued by six turnovers and a 2-for-7 effort from the foul line.
Doneal Mack was scoreless, shooting 0-7 overall, 0-5 from three-point range and an ugly 0-4 from the free throw line. Shawn Taggart just missed a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds, while Roburt Sallie continued his hot shooting with 12 points on 3-5 shooting (all treys) and 3-of-4 at the line.
Missouri shot a scintillating 53.2 percent from the floor (33-of-62), while Memphis was not far behind at 50.7 percent (35-69). Missouri won the game at the free throw line; though the percentage was not great (66.7 percent), 30-of-45 trumped Memphis’ 18-32 showing (56.2 percent) and provided the margin of victory.
The 102 points allowed was by far a season high for Memphis. The last time they had given up more than 90 was March, 2007, in a 92-76 loss to Ohio State in an Elite 8 game. The last time Memphis yielded 100 points was way back in February of 2000, a 102-75 loss to Alabama-Birmingham.
Missouri (31-6) moves on to oppose the Connecticut Huskies in the Regional Final round. UConn advanced with a 72-60 triumph over Purdue. The winner of that game will represent the West Regional in the Final Four, to be held at Detroit’s Ford Field on April 4th and 6th.