Memphis 73, East Carolina 49
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—For the second straight game, Memphis showed its opponent can’t contain the Tigers by collapsing on leading scorer Chris Massie.
Memphis connected on 11 3-point shots Tuesday night to loosen the East Carolina zone defense and defeat the Pirates 73-49.
“You’ve got to pick your poison,” East Carolina coach Bill Herrion said. “We made a decision to go 2-3 zone the entire game. If they don’t make some shots, you hang in there a little better. But right now, (the Tigers) have some confidence.”
Rodney Carney scored career-high 22 points as Memphis built a double-digit lead early in the second half and was never threatened the rest of the way.
Carney led a strong outside shooting attack for the Tigers, who hit 11-of-28 shots from 3-point range. Jeremy Hunt added 15 for Memphis (13-5, 4-3 Conference USA) and Anthony Rice finished with 13. Hunt and Carney were both 4-for-8 from outside the arc.
“Coach (John Calipari) wanted me to step in, but every time I got it, I was so wide open I had to take it,” Carney said.
The outside shooting eventually cleared the lane for Chris Massie, Memphis’s leading scorer, who finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds.
Memphis, which hit 14 3-pointers in its win Saturday over Southern Mississippi, has won three of its last four.
“Do you want (Massie) shooting a 3-foot shot or another guy shooting a 20-foot shot?” said East Carolina’s Luke MacKay. “I think the percentage is that you want the guy shooting the outside shot. They were just knocking them down. … You can’t take away everything.”
Calipari was pleased with his team’s intensity and defensive pressure, but would like to see the Tigers take fewer 3-point shots.
“Sixteen to 22 3s for us is a lot of 3s,” Calipari said. “When you start taking 28 3s, that’s a big number for this team. Now, you are living and dying on (3-pointers).”
The Pirates (11-9, 2-7) lost for the seventh time in eight games and were hampered by a 29 percent shooting performance. Gabriel Mikulas was the only East Carolina player in double figures with 14 points. No other Pirates player had more than six.
Memphis led 39-27 at the half. Seventeen of the Tigers’ 32 first-half shots were from 3-point range as the Pirates were content to use the zone defense, collapsing on Massie.
The active, hand-waving zone allowed Massie only two shots in the first half.
Carney had 11 for Memphis in the half, while Rice added 10.
Mikulas led the Pirates with 10.
Carney added to his total in the first 12 minutes of the second half, hitting nine points in an opening stretch as Memphis built its lead to 56-35 with about eight minutes remaining.
East Carolina put together an eight-point run to cut the lead to 13 with 3:30 remaining but could not get any closer.
“I didn’t think we played that bad,” Herrion said. “Yeah, we lost by 20. We just can’t score. Credit (the Tigers’) defense. In the first half, we had some point-blank looks, and we couldn’t score.”