- Associated Press - Sunday, January 26, 2014

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - South Florida coach Stan Heath knew Memphis wouldn’t continue to struggle from outside the 3-point arc, and he got a firsthand look to counter the 23rd-ranked Tigers’ poor shooting reputation.

The Bulls were unable to control Memphis’ best 3-point shooting performance of the season, leading to an 80-58 loss Sunday.

“They’re not a statistically good shooting team this year,” Heath said, “but you always have to be careful with the type of guys they have. Chris Crawford is a really great 3-point shooter.”

Crawford led Memphis with 15 points, all of them coming on his 5-of-10 shooting from outside the arc as the Tigers won their third straight.

Martino Brock led South Florida (10-10, 1-6 AAC) 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. Heath said only that it was a coaching decision and would not elaborate.

What he did elaborate on was his team’s missed opportunities to attack the Memphis defense. That put the Bulls out of rhythm, and while South Florida committed 15 turnovers, “I could have sworn it was 25,” Heath said.

“We weren’t looking up the floor very well,” he said. “We were getting our initial catch, and immediately looking to retreat. Our sideline guy was open several times, but we just didn’t hit him.”

Crawford said the poor 3-point shooting percentage is a misconception, and the Tigers are improving. Memphis, next-to-last in the American Athletic Conference in 3-point shooting (30 percent), ended the game 10 of 22 from outside the arc.

“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.”

Joe Jackson added 14 points and seven assists for Memphis (15-4, 5-2), while Shaq Goodwin finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nick King had 10 points as Memphis won its fifth of six.

“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,” Jackson said. “.The numbers are going to shoot up. You just have to stick with it and keep working.”

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.

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.

“It’s not like they’re bad shooters,” Heath said. “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.

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,” Memphis coach Josh 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.”



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