Tigers 84, Jackson State 69


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Some nights, 20 minutes of basketball can win you the game. The Tigers shot a blistering 78 percent in the first half Wednesday night to take a 50-32 lead into the locker room at the break. It proved to be enough for the hometown Tigers to cruise through the second half — in which they were outscored by JSU, 37-34 — and win their sixth game of the season. Dedric Lawson scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, his sixth double-double in seven games (and 23rd of his 40-game career). Redshirt-freshman K.J. Lawson led Memphis with 18 points, pulled down seven rebounds and handed out five assists.

The Tiger offense was efficient, accumulating 21 assists on 27 field goals and committing only 11 turnovers. It's the sixth game this season Memphis has had more assists than turnovers, all of them victories. "This is a group that loves to play together," said junior guard Markel Crawford, who had 15 points in 37 minutes. "Coach [Tubby Smith] has emphasized moving the ball, and that's part of our identity."
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • K.J. Lawson

Sophomore point guard Jeremiah Martin continued his ball-control ways, handing out eight assists with but a single turnover. Jimario Rivers came off the bench and added 13 points for the Tigers.

As for the drop in scoring efficiency after halftime, Crawford said it's to be expected after such a lengthy surge to start the game. "Teams are gonna make a run," he said. "We stuck to the game plan, getting the ball inside. But teams are gonna make shots."

JSU's Edric Dennis made seven of 17 shots (four of them three-pointers) to help the visitors pull within eight points (67-59) with just under nine minutes to play. But senior guard Christian Kessee hit a big three-pointer to get the lead back to double digits and ease any worried minds at FedExForum. "That gave us some big relief," said Smith. "He stepped up without hesitation. It gave everybody encouragement; I know it did me."

Crawford suggested the team's two-game trip to Florida last weekend (games they split) should serve as a reset of sorts for the young season. "The time in Florida helped us mature," he said. "See things we need to work on. We're ready to play anybody, and we'll be prepared for anyone down the road."

Down the road in Oxford this Saturday, will be the Ole Miss Rebels (losers Wednesday to Middle Tennessee). The Tigers, now 6-1, will aim to avenge a loss to their regional SEC rivals last season at FedExForum. "We prepare the same way," emphasized Smith, "home or road. We'll have to play like we did in the first half tonight to win. It helps that we've had a variety of styles that we've played against."

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