The Tigers passed a major road test this afternoon in Huntington, West Virginia, earning their 21st win of the season to retain their lead in the Conference USA standings with two games to play before the league tournament (March 7-10). After scoring a career-high 29 points against the Thundering Herd in a win at FedExForum on January 28th, Tiger sophomore Will Barton led the way again with 24. He converted a pair of three-point plays in the game's final six minutes to lock up the victory.
Returning to the scene of a 15-point loss last season, Memphis took the lead early, led by four first-half dunks from Tarik Black. Marshall closed to within a point (39-38) until Chris Crawford drained a three-pointer from the left wing as time expired in the first half. The U of M then scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 52-38 lead and Marshall was unable to get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Black hit all eight of his shots from the field and finished with 16 points for the Tigers. Joe Jackson hit 13 of 15 free throws and finished with 21 points. The Tigers' player of the game, though, may well have been sophomore guard Chris Crawford. The pride of Sheffield High School hit six of nine shots from the field for 16 points, dished out eight assists, grabbed seven rebounds, and picked up three steals.
Memphis shot a blistering 60 percent for the game and held Marshall to 40 percent. Herd star DeAndre Kane missed 14 of 19 field goal attempts and seven of 11 from the free-throw line. Kane and Jackson were in the middle of a confrontation midway through the second half after Kane took Jackson down on a layup attempt by the Memphis point guard. Tiger coach Josh Pastner entered the fracas, as he did in a similar stare-down with Rice on January 25th. No players (or coaches) were ejected. Kane was charged with an intentional foul.
With the win, Memphis improves to 11-3 in C-USA play. Southern Miss and Tulsa — each 9-4 — play in separate games tonight. The Tigers host one of their league rivals that beat them — the UCF Knights — next Tuesday at FedExForum (tip-off at 8 pm).
MILESTONE NOTE: Will Barton now needs 37 points to become the 47th Tiger to reach 1,000. He would become the first Memphis sophomore to join the club since Darius Washington in 2006.