Nichols scores 19, No. 21 Memphis tops LSU 76-69
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP)
Joe Jackson added 16 points for Memphis (4-1), which will play No. 5 Oklahoma State in Sunday night's championship game. The Cowboys got a major scare in Friday's other semifinal before beating Butler 69-67.
Memphis' only loss this season came to Oklahoma State, which won handily 101-80 on Nov. 19.
''It's the next game on our schedule. I'm not big into revenge or any of that stuff,'' Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. ''There is no revenge. It's for us to get better. We've got to continue to get better and trust the process because it's the long haul.
''Oklahoma State is a great team,'' Pastner added. ''They've got a great player, obviously, in Marcus Smart. (Coach) Travis Ford does a tremendous job with their team.''
Anthony Hickey scored 20 points for LSU (4-2). Johnny O'Bryant III chipped in 14 points, while Andre Stringer was held to just two.
''I thought it was a hard-fought basketball game,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said. ''Unfortunately, I didn't think we made great decisions down the stretch. I felt like we played extremely hard.''
A pair of baskets by Jackson gave Memphis a 68-64 advantage with 3 minutes remaining. After Shavon Coleman made two free throws for LSU, Nichols connected on a jumper and Jackson converted two free throws that made it 72-66 with just under a minute remaining.
Hickey's 3 with 17 seconds left kept LSU close at 72-69.
''That's a good team, LSU,'' Pastner said. ''They're an NCAA tournament team, no question on that. That was a good win for our guys. We had to grind that out. We had to gut it out, and we found a way to do it.''
Two more free throws by Jackson and Crawford's dunk during the final 13 seconds secured the win.
''We just stayed together as a team,'' Crawford said. ''As coach always says, play as a team and trust the process. Just get better every day, and that's what we've been doing.''
Memphis put together a 7-0 run, which featured a 3-point play and rebound basket by Nichols, to get to 57-56 midway through the second half. Memphis took a 60-59 lead when Crawford went the full board to score on a layup with 9 1/2 minutes to play.
Coleman put LSU up 55-47 on a jumper 7 minutes into the second half.
Hickey had eight points as LSU went up 38-34 at halftime. His jumper 91 seconds before the break gave LSU its largest lead during the opening 20 minutes at 38-30.
''Certainly, we came down here hopeful of playing in the finals for a championship, and we allowed that situation to slip away,'' Jones said.
LSU and Butler will play in Sunday's third-plce game.