Memphis held off a comeback attempt from George Washington on Friday night to advance with a 71-66 win.
The Tigers were led by Michael Dixon Jr., who finished with 19 points on 6-of-9 from the floor. He also made the last four free throws of the game to seal the win.
George Washington got a monster game out of Isaiah Armwood down low. The forward totaled 21 points and five rebounds to give his side a chance. Unfortunately, a 2-of-13 effort from leading scorer Maurice Creek doomed the team to a second-round exit.
While the game was never pretty, Memphis did what it took to escape with the victory.
At the start of this game, it seemed as though the squad was set on pulling away for an easy win. The squad jumped out to a 26-16 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half as scoring was a problem for George Washington.
However, the poor shooting then shifted the other way as the Colonials were able to end the half on a 10-5 run. Sports Illustrated noted the uncertainty at intermission:
hard to get a read on that first half but memphis is leading and leads are good in basketball #GWvsMem— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) March 21, 2014
Patrick Stevens notes that Memphis had to be disappointed by the score:
Halftime: Memphis 31, George Washington 26. Memphis really should be up double digits. Might live to regret that.— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) March 21, 2014
Both sides then traded buckets in the second half before a huge dunk by Geron Johnson, which was followed by a technical foul on the senior. C.L. Brown of ESPN questioned the call:
Geron Johnson T'd up for doing an extra chin up on his dunk; ref probably could have let that slide; Tigers up 41-36— C.L. Brown (@clbrownespn) March 22, 2014
This seemed to ignite the Tigers on both ends of the courts as they were able to extend the lead:
Memphis pushes its lead to 10, 51-41 with 11:38 remaining. Matches largest lead in game for the Tigers who have never trailed #gotigersgo— MemphisTigerNetwork (@TigersMedia) March 22, 2014
To make matters worse for George Washington, the squad's best rebounder was dealing with foul trouble, as noted by Ralph Russo of the Associated Press:
GW in a mess of trouble. Down 11, Armwood with four fouls.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) March 22, 2014
However, the Colonials kept making plays when they needed and kept the score close. Poor decision-making by Memphis and frontcourt play of George Washington turned this into a battle:
A 7-0 run by George Washington cuts Memphis' lead to 64-62 with 2:17 remaining. #MarchMadness— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 22, 2014
After a pair of made free throws by Dixon, the Colonials had a chance to tie the game down three with a few seconds left. Creek took the shot, but he missed everything and the Tigers held on for the win. Rob Dauster of NBC Sports noted that he had little chance based on the look:
Creek didn't come close to getting set on that three.— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) March 22, 2014
On the other hand, the senior thought he should have made it, via Michael Cohen of The Commercial Appeal:
Maurice Creek: "I felt like I got a great look, the best look I was going to get. It just didn't fall."— Michael Cohen (@Michael_Cohen13) March 22, 2014
As Nicole Auerbach of USA Today pointed out, this ends what was a great season for George Washington:
Memphis will win a somewhat ugly one. Know it's not the ending GW wanted, but what a season regardless.— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) March 22, 2014
Memphis will now advance to the third round to face the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 16 Coastal Carolina. If history is any indication, Virginia will have little trouble getting past the Big South winners.
The toughest task in this battle will be scoring against one of the best defenses in the country. The Cavaliers make all shots difficult and keep shooting percentages to a minimum.
However, Memphis' athleticism and guard play should give it a legitimate chance in the next round.
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