Memphis was a bit sluggish at the start of its season opener, Reserve guard Antonio Barton was there to kick start the 17th-ranked Tigers’ offense.
Tarik Black had 18 points and seven rebounds, and guard Joe Jackson added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for Memphis in the 81-66 victory over North Florida on Monday night.
Barton’s performance not only helped overcome an early North Florida lead, but it was a bit of redemption. He was in coach Josh Pastner’s doghouse after the two had a sideline disagreement during an exhibition game last week.
”I’m just trying to play toward the system and fit back in,” Barton said. ”Last week, I let my teammates down. I’m just happy they accepted me back and found me on a couple of passes, a couple of shots. I was just coming in trying to be that energy as I always have.”
Jerron Granberry led the Ospreys (1-1) with 17 points, including 13 in the second half. Parker Smith scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from outside the arc while Charles McRoy added 10 points.
”We don’t play these money games just to play for money,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. ”We come to play to win, and we were prepared to do what we had to do. Obviously, our guys fought.”
Memphis overcame the sketchy start, eventually pulling away in the middle stages of the first half and coasting through the second half.
The Tigers led by as many as 32 points in the second half. The Ospreys closed the deficit late as the Tigers went deep into their bench to finish the game.
North Florida shot 39 percent overall, including 50 percent in the second half. Smith, who had 22 points in the Ospreys’ 79-65 victory over Edward Waters in the season opener, connected early to build the lead. He was ineffective in the second half.
”He is a crazy shooter,” Black said of Smith. ”Like something I really haven’t seen lately, since I have been in college. On the film, he knocks down shots that I have never seen anybody else make. So when he starts shooting, I’m thinking: `Oh man, this guy is getting started like we saw on that film.’ So we had to shut that down early.”
Memphis shot 42 percent from the field.
The Tigers led 47-25 at halftime behind 11 points from Barton and 10 from Black.
Smith made three 3-pointers as North Florida took its early 20-17 lead. But Barton scored 10 of the Tigers’ next 12 points, which led to a 19-0 Memphis run, part of a half-closing 30-5 spurt.
”The problem is, it’s a 40-minute game,” Driscoll said. ”It was 20-17 and they go on a 19-0 run. .The game was lost at that particular point.”
The Tigers stretched the lead with a 19-9 run to open the second half, building its biggest lead at 66-34 with just under 14 minutes left.
Driscoll was impressed that his team didn’t quit despite the deficit. In a timeout, he told his team the deficit could keep building or they could fight back. The Ospreys kept whittling away, eventually cutting the Tigers’ lead to the final 15-point margin.
”In the last 15 minutes, we played sloppy and lackadaisical, which is not acceptable,” Pastner said. ”That’s just something that we have to be better about. We have to be able to put teams away.”