No. 23 Memphis handles South Florida
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis dispelled its reputation as a poor 3-point shooting team while coasting to its third straight victory.
Chris Crawford scored 15 points, converting five of Memphis’ season-high 10 3-pointers, and the 23rd-ranked Tigers defeated South Florida 80-58 on Sunday.
”We work on it all the time,” Crawford said of the 3-point shooting. ”It’s just having a lot of confidence. It’s mainly about everybody sharing the ball and getting everybody an open look.”
The Tigers, next-to-last in the American Athletic Conference in 3-point shooting (30 percent), finished 10 of 22 from outside the arc.
Joe Jackson added 14 points and seven assists for Memphis (15-4, 5-2 AAC), while Shaq Goodwin finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nick King had 10 points as Memphis won its fifth of the last six.
”We are a good shooting team,” Jackson said in countering the reputation. ”We’re not the first team that shot poorly in the first half of the season and picked it up at the end of the year.
”.The numbers are going to shoot up. You just have to stick with it and keep working.”
Martino Brock led South Florida (10-10, 1-6) with 17 points, the only Bull to score in double figures. Victor Rudd, South Florida’s leading scorer with a 14.8 average, had six points and played sparingly in the second half. Bulls coach Stan Heath said only that it was a ”coaching decision,” and would not elaborate.
Memphis broke the game open in the middle of the first half, building the lead to 12 points at halftime. The Tigers were up 30 with about 9 minutes left.
”We were very passive,” Heath said. ”I thought one thing that hurt us was we were getting ball in and just throwing it backwards. We didn’t look up the sidelines for the pass or try to attack it a little bit harder.”
The Tigers finished at 46 percent from beyond the arc against South Florida, including 58 percent in the second half.
South Florida entered shooting 26 percent from outside the arc, the worst in the conference, and was 3 of 10 for the game.
Heath knew that while Memphis has depended on the inside emergence of Goodwin in recent games, the Tigers’ shooters would eventually capitalize on teams guarding the paint. Memphis was 8 of 20 from 3-point distance in its 88-73 win at South Florida on Dec. 31.
”Statistically, they’re not shooting great from the 3,” Heath said. ”We know they are very capable guys. It’s not like they’re bad shooters. They haven’t found rhythm. They found rhythm in both times we played them for whatever reason.”
Jackson’s seven assists, along with seven more from Geron Johnson, were part of Memphis collecting 23 assists on 25 field goals.
Memphis closed the half with a 10-0 run to go up 34-22. The Tigers were stymied by anemic free throw shooting, going 9 of 19, including 3 of 11 in the final 7 minutes of the half. Memphis ended the game 20 of 35.
”We left a lot of points on the table basically,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said of the free throw woes.
The 3-point shooting loosened up the Tigers offense in the second half. Memphis hit seven of its first 10 shots in the half, including missing only 2 of 8 from outside the arc, and the Bulls weren’t keeping pace. Memphis was up 56-33 after Crawford hit consecutive 3-pointers with just under 13 minutes left in the game.
”It’s important for your offensive spacing,” Pastner said. ”You’ve got to be able to make the 3-point shot. It’s imperative. The 3-point shot is the whole key to the game in this day and age – both defending the 3 and making the 3.”