College basketball teams that advance deeply into the NCAA tournament tend to do so behind an alpha male. However deep a squad may be, there tends to be one who emerges as The Guy.
With a second consecutive double-double (27 points and 14 rebounds) tonight in south Florida, sophomore swingman Will Barton may be emerging as The Guy for the 21st-ranked Tigers. With teammates lagging in the first half — Joe Jackson and Wesley Witherspoon were held scoreless — Barton scored 14 of the Tigers' first 21 points and helped the U of M to a 27-26 halftime lead. (After hitting 15 three-pointers against Austin Peay last Saturday, the Tigers missed all seven of their long-distance attempts in the first half tonight.)
The game remained tight over the first 10 minutes of the second half before Memphis pulled away with a 29-13 run to earn its fifth win of the season. Chris Crawford and Tarik Black each added nine points for the Tigers. Witherspoon did not score, missing all six of his attempts from the field. The senior has not reached double figures since scoring 22 in the U of M's opening game of the season. Memphis finished one of 12 from beyond the arc, but held the Hurricanes to 36-percent shooting for the game.
Now 5-2, the Tigers will return to FedExForum for their next game, Sunday against Murray State.