The University of Memphis turned 21 UTEP turnovers into 25 points as the Tigers raced past the Miners, 65-47, on Thursday at FedExForum in the Conference USA Tournament quarterfinals.
It was a taste of revenge for the Tigers, who were stunned on their home court last month against the Miners in a 60-58 loss. Sophomore guard Joe Jackson led all scorers with 17 points.
Memphis trailed 10-2 at the first media timeout, but used transition buckets off of turnovers to take a 31-26 advantage into the half.
“They make it a grind-out game,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “We had to grind it out. It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way to get the ‘W’ through defense.”
Midway through the second half, sophomore guard Will Barton and UTEP forward Cedrick Lang initiated a skirmish that resulted in four overall technical fouls being assessed, with three coming against the Tigers. UTEP shot six free throws following the sequence.
Pastner said he likes seeing the emotion from his team, so long as it doesn’t boil over and result in punches being thrown. He said he especially enjoyed seeing the chippiness from Jackson, his point guard.
“I love to see the fire, because you can alter the game by just your fire and being a fiery guy out there,” Pastner said. “I want the emotion. That’s what I want. That’s my vision of Joe, and he had that. He affected the game in a positive way.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Tigers’ win is the fact that they did it without much production from Barton, who was named C-USA Player of the Year earlier this week. He battled foul trouble for the majority of the night and finished with just seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.
But the Tigers more than made up for his struggles, playing more controlled mindset offensively in the second half — they finished with 18 assists on 23 baskets — and turning up the defensive pressure on the Miners.
“They’re pressing, you’re not seeing that anywhere else in the league,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We were up 10-2, then we couldn’t get it inbounded, and most of our turnovers came on our end of the court. They were up underneath us. They’ve got great athleticism and they were extended in the passing lanes.”
The Tigers will take on UCF tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.