Memphis wins 2013 Conference USA basketball tournament: Tigers survive double OT to punch ticket

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis is heading to the NCAA tournament after winning the Conference USA tournament on Saturday.

The Memphis Tigers are officially heading to the NCAA tournament after defeating the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles in double overtime, 91-79, on Saturday to win the Conference USA tournament.

Bubble teams around the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the Tigers squeaked out a victory in double overtime over a very resilient Southern Mississippi squad. The final score wasn't indicative of how close the game was, as Memphis didn't blow it open until the second overtime.

Conference USA is projected to be a one-bid conference, and if history said anything, it was always Memphis' to lose. The Tigers have defeated the Golden Eagles in 20 of their last 21 meetings and was riding yet another of their many hot-streaks as of late, going undefeated in conference play for the fourth time in seven years.

But the Golden Eagles played with the fire of a team that has nothing to lose. They harried the Tigers into a poor shooting night for much of the game, and made sure few things fell from behind the arc. The Tigers were 9 for 25 from the three-point line, with most of those falling as clutch shots towards the end of the game. The Tigers only led by two points going into halftime. It would generally be a one-possession difference for much of the entirety of the game.

Golden Eagles guard Neil Watson charged down the court after Memphis missed the front end of a one-in-one, making a lay-up with 0.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, poor free throw shooting doomed the Golden Eagles. They missed many free throws in the waning minutes of the game, shooting just 15 of 28 from the line.

Sophomore Adonis Thomas scored and 19 points and had eight rebounds and senior D.J. Stephens added 12 points and five blocks in the win. Chris Crawford was electric in the second half and overtimes, scoring 19 of his 23 points in the second half of the game. It is the seventh-straight trip to the NCAAs for the Tigers.

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