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The Memphis Tigers punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with an 83-57 win over Marshall to lock up the Conference USA Tournament Championship. The Tigers were a lock for an at-large berth, but their performance in the conference tournament has dramatically improved their seeding this week. The Thundering Herd, on the other hand, will not be moving on and bubble teams exhaled when the Tigers took care of business playing in front of a friendly hometown crowd.
Memphis jumped on Marshall early, getting out on the break and blitzing the cinderella No. 6 seed to take an 18-point lead at halftime. They sealed it on the defensive end in the second half for the comfortable double digit win. The duo of Joe Jackson and Will Barton led Josh Pastner's attack, scoring 19 and 18 points, respectively. Jackson did his damage getting into the lane and drawing contact, drilling 10 of 11 attempts from the free-throw line. As a team, the Tigers hit an amazing 25 of 27 attempts from the charity stripe - ensuring that the Herd could not challenge in the second half. Barton grabbed 13 boards as well for the game's only double-double. Marshall had no answers on the defensive end, as the Tigers shot 59 percent from the floor to clinch the title.
The Tigers are playing some of their best basketball of the season, and Saturday's edition of SB Nation's bracketology had Memphis as a six seed. That's likely to improve with the C-USA title under their belt, but regardless, they have to feel good entering the big dance next week.
The Marshall Thundering Herd made their way to the C-USA Championship game after blowing out Central Florida on Friday night, but at halftime in the Championship Game they are on the way to being blown out by the Memphis Tigers. The Tigers hold a 45-27 lead at the half way point, as they have dominated Marshall on the boards; out-rebounding them 18-9 so far.
The Thundering Herd has struggled to slow down the Memphis offense as the Tigers made all but one of their free throws in the first half. Guard Joe Jackson leads Memphis is scoring with 11 points while Will Barton and Wesley Witherspoon have both picked up nine points in the first half.
Marshall has struggled to sink their three-pointers, shooting just 25 percent from beyond the arc. DeAndre Kane is providing the majority of the offense for the Herd in the first half picking up 12 points and 6 rebounds, while the next highest scorer is Shaquille Johnson with just five points.
The eyes of the bubble world will be watching as Marshall looks to steal an automatic bid by capturing the Conference USA Tournament title.
The Memphis Tigers, Conference USA's top seed, made quick work of the fourth-seeded Central Florida Knights in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament, winning 83-52 and advancing to the finals, where they'll take on the sixth seed, the Marshall Thundering Herd. You can see how they got there here.
As was the case in their quarterfinal win over UTEP, the Tigers had simply too much length and talent for the Knights to keep up with. With blue chip players like Will Barton, Joe Jackson and Tarik Black scoring efficiently and creating turnovers, there's simply no team in C-USA that can keep pace. Their defense simply destroyed the Knights, and their scoring was terrifically balanced; six different Tigers scored eight points or more.
How effective was the Memphis defense? UCF shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 2-19 from deep. Sure, some of that is their own deficiencies, but anytime a team shoots that poorly, it means they weren't getting very many open looks, and they weren't.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles officially joined the growing pool of bubble teams leading up to Selection Sunday. They were slated as an 11-seed according to SB Nation's latest bracketology rankings heading into Friday's 2012 Conference USA Tournament semifinal game. A 73-62 loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd has put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy, however.
The two teams went back-and-forth throughout the first half, with the Herd taking a one-point lead into the locker room. They would pull away in the game's second stanza, taking a 68-58 lead with 3:26 remaining on a 21-6 run. Shaquille Johnson scored 10 points during the run, on his way to a team-leading 24 points. He went 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc, and Marshall shot 9-for-17 for the game.
Southern Miss had just three turnovers to 17 for Marshall, and were dominant on the glass with 17 offensive rebounds. They shot just 34.2 percent from the floor, however. Angelo Johnson scored 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting, but none of his other teammates came close to making 50 percent of their shots. Neil Watson led the team in scoring this season, but went 3-of-12 shooting to finish up with nine points.
Thursday night, UCF ended UAB's disappointing season and picked up momentum in its run at the 2012 NCAA Tournament with a 64-54 win over the Blazers in the Conference USA Tournament.
UAB fell despite significant effort on the boards. The Blazers, one of the last teams into the 2011 NCAA Tournament, had 15 offensive rebounds, with Cameron Moore and Ovie Soko grabbing four each, but could not convert them into points, shooting under 30 percent from the field. Soko had 18 points to lead UAB, while Preston Purifoy added 14 points and four steals.
The Texas-El Paso Miners tried to recapture the magic of their victory in Memphis on Feb. 18 in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament, but eventually succumbed to the superior talent and athleticism of the Memphis Tigers, 65-47.
The Tigers, shooting for their sixth conference title in seven years — and on their way soon to the Big East — struggled to put away the Miners until about 10 minutes remained in this one, but the top-seeded team in the conference eventually was just too much for its opponent.
Using steals to create rapid-fire fast break points, the Tigers shot 50 percent on their two-point field goal attempts (just 3-14 from deep, which has never been their strong suit) on their way to the victory. They had 15 steals in the game, causing absolute havoc for the Miners' guards. Joe Jackson had five of those steals and led his team with 17 points. His backcourt-mate, Chris Crawford, had seven assists to go along with his 11 points.
The Miners, the tournament's eighth seed, shot a pitiful 34 percent from the field with 20 turnovers, numbers that will result in a loss just about every time out on the floor. John Bohannon was the team's lone bright spot, finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds.
There was only a small crowd in the stands at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., for the Conference USA tournament game between the No. 6-seeded Marshall Thundering Herd and the No. 3-seeded Tulsa Golden Hurricane, but the small crowd got a big treat. Marshall won by a final score of 105-100 after three overtime periods and 71 fouls.
Dago Pena finally broke the stalemate, as both teams started to run low on players. He hit a three-pointer at the 2:20 mark of the third overtime to give Marshall a 97-95 lead that they would not relinquish.
You read that correctly, by the way. A total of 71 fouls were called over the course of the game, ranging from the obvious to nitpicking. Marshall players Robert Goff, Shaquille Johnson, Yous Mbao, Damier Pitts and Nigel Spikes all fouled out. Tulsa lost Jordan Clarkson, Kodi Maduka, D.J. Magley and Joe Richard.
DeAndre Kane led the way for Marshall. With 12 seconds left in the second overtime, Kane went coast-to-coast, making a layup that tied the game again at 86-86. He stole the ball from Eric McClellan with two seconds left, but Marshall failed to get out of the backcourt to attempt another shot before the game went to a third overtime.
Kane finished the game with 40 points on 15-of-32 shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and just one turnover in 54 minutes of playing time. Dennis Tinnon had a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the effort, his second straight game with double-digit rebounds.
McClellan led Tulsa with 25 points. Shockingly, he had just one foul, making one of only two players from both teams to finish with a single foul. Steven Idlet finished with 20 points.
Marshall advances to play the No. 2-seeded Southern Miss. Golden Eagles in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m.
The UAB Blazers advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Conference USA Tournament on Wednesday night with a 72-64 victory over the Tulane Green Wave. This was as expected since the Blazers were the No. 5 seed in the tournament and went up against the No. 12 Green Wave, which went 3-13 in conference play.
Cameron Moore put up the best performance of the night with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but that wasn't the only double-double for the Blazers. Ovie Soko scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Preston Purifoy was the team's sniper, hitting three of the team's four three-pointers.
For Tulane, Josh Davis hit 8-of-17 shots for 20 points (while pulling down seven rebounds), but the team wound up shooting 38.5 percent from the field. Jordan Callahan sank just 4-of-11 shots from the field; however, Ricky Tarrant outdid him with just two shots of 14 falling through the hoop.
The Blazers will face the No. 4 Central Florida Knights on Thursday.
For more on conference tournaments and March Madness, visit SB Nation NCAA Basketball.
The Houston Cougars and UTEP Miners split their regular season series, but the Miners got the last laugh Wednesday night with a win at a neutral site. With their 67-62 overtime win in the first round, UTEP has earned the right to play the No. 1 seeded Memphis Tigers in the quarterfinals of the Conference-USA tournament.
Houston pushed the pace and attempted 15 more shots than their opponents, but were ultimately cost by their poor shooting from outside and their inability to capitalize from the free-throw line. The Cougars were 4-23 from distance and shot just 6-15 on free throws.
Though the game was close throughout, Houston took the lead for the first time with 10:06 remaining in the first half and did not fall behind the Miners until overtime. The last two minutes of regulation were extremely back and forth, and Gabriel McCulley was the catalyst for the UTEP comeback. With his team down 55-51, he made a layup inside and was fouled, then converted the three-point play. TaShawn Thomas was sent to the line on the other end but made only one free throw, extending his team's lead to two points. The teams traded buckets in the final minute with John Bohannon hitting the shot for UTEP that tied the game at 58-58 and forced overtime.
Houston missed four three-point shots and was 0-2 from the free-throw line in the overtime period, as bad shot selection and a failure to convert easy opportunities was their ultimate undoing. UTEP converted on open shots and free throws in overtime, taking what Houston gave them to set up a date with Memphis.
The SMU Mustangs went over four minutes without a point early in the second half, allowing the Marshall Thundering Herd to build a 42-33 lead midway through the period. The Thundering Herd continued to add to that lead over the rest of regulation, ultimately beating the Mustangs 74-56 to advance to the second round of the 2012 Conference USA Tournament.
DeAndre Kane led the Thundering Herd with 18 points for the game, but Dennis Tinnon was arguably the MVP with 15 rebounds to go along with his nine points. Tinnon helped his team to a 39-29 advantage on the boards, snuffing out second chance opportunities for the Mustangs.
Senior Rodney Clinkscales averaged just 3.8 points per game during the season, but led SMU with 17 points. Leading scorer Robert Nyakundi had an off night however, shooting just 4-for-12 from the field and 2-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc to finish up with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The East Carolina Pirates and the Rice Owls spent 40 minutes trading blows during Wednesday's Conference USA Tournament game in Memphis. Both teams shot well for the most part, until a 10-3 run by the Pirates over the final 5:34 of regulation gave them a 68-66 win and the right to face Southern Mississippi in Round 2 on Thursday.
The Pirates lived largely from beyond the 3-point line, going 10-for-24 from behind the arc. Paris Campbell hit four treys on his own for 12 points. Darrius Morrow gave East Carolina an inside punch, leading the team with 16 points and five assists. Erin Straughn was strong on the defensive end, with 11 rebounds and two blocks to go along with his 13 points.
The Owls had at least eight points from six different players. Arsalan Kazemi led the way with 10 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. Rice shot 52.8 percent from the floor, but couldn't quite keep up with the pace set by the Pirates from long range.
Neither the Houston Cougars or the UTEP Miners are expected to make noise in the Conference USA Tournament considering the Memphis Tigers are the tournament favorites, but they play for the games for a reason. That reason is the automatic berth each conference tournament winner receives, of course, and both Houston and UTEP would love the opportunity to head to the Big Dance.
The Cougars and Miners will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night and be available to watch on the C-USA Sports Network. Both the Cougars and the Miners finished with 7-9 records during the conference season, earning the eight and nine seeds respectively. That doesn't bode well in the next round for them, however, as it means the winner gets a meeting with Memphis on Thursday night.
Houston won four of its final five games of the season, allowing them to enter the tournament with momentum, but had trouble with the Miners this season. After dropping a 20-point decision to UTEP on Jan. 7, the Cougars needed overtime to pick up a victory in the rematch.
Wednesday's tie-breaker is much more important than either of those games, however, and will potentially allow one of them to play the role of tournament spoiler the rest of the way.
Seventh-seeded Rice (17-14, 8-8) and No. 10 East Carolina (14-15, 5-11) will get the party started in the Conference USA Tournament when they tip things off in Memphis at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The Owls haven't been the NCAA Tournament since 1970 and the enter the postseason with a winning record for the first time since the 2004-05 season. It's been a tremendous turnaround job for head coach Ben Braun, who took over a program that went 3-27 and was winless in conference play just four seasons ago. Though a four wins in four days run to the NCAA Tournament seems improbable, a win over ECU would put Rice in good shape for an NIT or CBI bid.
East Carolina had been 0-9 in the C-USA Tournament before winning back-to-back games a season ago. The Pirates lost their first six conference games this season before playing .500 basketball the rest of the way. That second stretch included a dominating 82-68 win over Rice back on Feb. 4. Led by junior forward Maurice Kemp's 14-point, 11-rebound performance, the Pirates bullied Rice in the paint for 40 minutes and cruised to the convincing victory.
The winner of this game will face second-seeded Southern Mississippi in a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday.
The Conference USA Tournament tips off on Wednesday, hosted by overwhelming favorite Memphis.
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