MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Memphis senior guard Joe Jackson closed his home career with a half that carried the No. 20 Tigers to victory.
Jackson scored 15 of his 18 points after intermission leading Memphis to a 67-58 victory over No. 18 SMU on Saturday.
The performance provided some redemption for Jackson, who was 16 of 47 from the field in his last five games and started Saturday 1 for 7.
“I was frustrated at halftime,” Jackson said, “and wanted to play better for myself and my teammates. I had to turn on an extra gear and get the game going.
“We had to run and speed the tempo up, which we did in the second half.”
Jackson hit his first four shots after intermission as the Tigers (23-8, 12-6 American Athletic Conference) shot 59 percent in the second half while building the lead to as many as 14 with a 20-5 run.
Memphis senior guard Chris Crawford scored all nine of his points in the game during the rally converting a trio of 3-pointers over a minute and a half span. It was evidence of how Memphis’ senior guards - Jackson, Crawford, Geron Johnson and Michael Dixon — can propel the Tigers.
“Those senior guards willed us to a win,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “Those senior guards would not let us lose.”
Freshman forward Austin Nichols finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for Memphis.
Nic Moore led the Mustangs (23-8, 12-6) with 16 points. Nick Russell and Markus Kennedy scored 13 each for SMU, which lost its second straight, the first time this season the Mustangs have lost consecutive games.
“We’ve had a hard time when adversity hits to be able to deal with it,” SMU coach Larry Brown said of not answering the Tigers second-half push. “This is kind of typical of us. We’ve always kind of competed at a high level and then, all of a sudden, stuff happens. We just haven’t taken that next step to handle it. We kind of splinter a little bit.”
Memphis found its range in the second 20 minutes, particularly from 3-point land. After missing all six 3s in the first half, Memphis connected on 6 of 13 in the second half.
The Tigers opened the second half with seven straight points, and the game settled into a close affair until Memphis went on another run of nine consecutive points for a 47-39 lead with 12:42 left. At that point, Memphis had connected on 9 of 11 shots in the half.
Johnson’s layup capped the 20-5 rally, fueled by Crawford’s 3-pointers, giving Memphis a 58-44 lead, its largest of the game with 8:58 left.
SMU would get no closer than six the rest of the game. Brown said his team got away from things that were successful early when the Mustangs built the lead to seven in the first half.
“They couldn’t stop us,” Brown said of the Memphis defense. “We were running elbow ball screens, and they couldn’t even stop us. Then we got away from it and started taking bad shots. We don’t understand when things go bad, you’ve got to start guarding. That’s the most important thing.”
The first half was intense and sloppy, with tough defense and erratic passing. The Mustangs held a 30-26 lead at halftime behind 10 points from Moore.
The Mustangs built the lead on a trio of 3-pointers around the 8-minute mark, the final one from Moore for a 24-17 lead, the largest advantage for either team in the first half.
Memphis’ senior guards, playing their final regular-season home game, were 3 of 17 in the half.
Add to that 10 Memphis turnovers and eight from the Mustangs and it was a tough half offensively for both teams.
“I thought we didn’t match their energy,” Brown said. “We had chances to stretch the lead that we didn’t take advantage of.”
Memphis would end the game with 18 turnovers compared to 17 for SMU. The Mustangs shot 40 percent for the game.
“Our seniors made shots down the stretch, which allowed us to win the game,” Pastner said.
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