No. 19 Memphis 94, Northwestern St. 79

Memphis got complacent with a lead, and the lackadaisical

approach put the No. 19 Tigers in a tougher situation than

expected.

But Will Barton, one of the top recruits in Memphis’ freshman

class, showed flashes of what is expected of him and helped put the

Tigers back on track in the second half as they defeated

Northwestern State 94-79 on Wednesday night.

Barton scored 22 points, including restarting the Tiger offense

after the Demons (1-2) took the lead with just over 13 minutes

left.

”I knew we had fallen behind, and that’s one of the things I

relish,” said Barton, a 6-foot-6 guard from Baltimore. ”When

things are falling apart, or we’re losing, I just want to take over

a game. Not just necessarily scoring, but with my leadership,

defense and passing the ball and rebounding.”

Wesley Witherspoon led the Tigers (3-0) with 24 points and a

career-high 12 rebounds. Witherspoon was 5 of 7 from the field and

converted all but one of his 14 free throws as Memphis survived the

second-half burst by the Demons.

”We got complacent,” Witherspoon said. ”Once we got the lead,

we took our foot off the gas, and we can’t do that. It can’t

happen. We got happy with the lead, and we let up.”

Will Pratt finished with 23 points, including 14 in the second

half for Northwestern State. Devon Baker scored 15 points, while

Louis Ellis had 11.

Northwestern State, led by Pratt, really put the pressure on

Memphis in the opening minutes of the second half. Pratt had 11

points in the first 5 minutes, to pull the Demons within 61-57.

They would continue to rally, eventually outscoring Memphis 19-4 to

take their only lead of the game, at 63-61, when Baker scored with

13:11 remaining.

But Barton answered the Demons’ rally with 11 straight Memphis

points, erasing the Northwestern State advantage. Memphis

eventually rebuilt the lead to double-digits, and didn’t let the

visitors get closer than 10 in the final 7:47.

”They are a talented, talented team, and we were playing right

with them because we were playing hard, and we played a little bit

smarter,” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. ”But when

we play hard and smart, maybe we won’t be talking about moral

victories. Maybe we’ll be talking about victories.”

Memphis took a 57-44 lead into the dressing room with

Witherspoon recording 14 points in the half for the Tigers. Memphis

was able to shoot 57 percent before the break. The Tigers held a

double-digit lead through the final 13 minutes of the half,

stretching the advantage to as many as 19.

But, despite holding a dominant advantage on the board, Memphis

was hampered by 11 first-half turnovers. And even though

Northwestern State had only 12 rebounds in the half, nine of them

were on the offensive boards.

That caused Memphis coach Josh Pastner to pound the top of press

row so much in frustration that he apologized for his actions after

the game.

”We were very undisciplined, and I don’t like that because I

like discipline,” Pastner said.

He, like his players, realized that they let the Demons off the

deck and made the game more intense in the second half.

”I knew that when we had a team like this down, you have to put

them down and not allow them to hang around,” Pastner said, ”or

they will come back because they had good players and good

athletes.”