MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis played most of the first half without its leading scorer and point guard, and the Tigers still had more than enough offense to beat struggling Cincinnati.
Chris Massie bounced back from the first-half foul trouble and scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to lead No. 24 Memphis to the 67-48 victory Saturday night.
“If they came too close and tried to triple-team me, I told my teammates to get ready to shoot the ball,” Massie said. “But if they didn’t get open in time, I was going to go up for the shot.”
Point guard Antonio Burks added 12 points for the Tigers (20-5, 11-3 Conference USA), who have won nine straight. Burks and Massie were saddled with two fouls each before the 12-minute media timeout in the first half. They were held to a combined eight points before halftime, but the Bearcats led just 29-27.
“When we were only down two without (Burks) and Chris Massie, I told the team at halftime, ‘We’re OK. We’re only down two, and those two didn’t play,”’ Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Cincinnati (16-9, 8-6) had won six straight over Memphis, but the Bearcats are finding points difficult to come by. After beating Louisville 101-80 on Feb. 22, Cincinnati scored 101 points in its next two games: a 53-52 win over East Carolina and then Saturday night’s debacle. The Bearcats shot 35 percent in their last game and 24.6 percent against Memphis.
“We did not make the shots, and you have to make shots to win,” Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said.
The Bearcats, who have lost six of nine, had just one player in double figures—Tony Bobbitt with 12 points.
Memphis took control with a 17-2 run midway through the second half. Cincinnati scored just 19 points in the half, on just four field goals, and shot 4-of-26 for 15 percent after halftime.
Massie, who played 24 minutes, shot 8-of-11 for the game and 7-of-9 from the line. He also led the Tigers with eight rebounds.
“We did not do a very good job on Massie, and he is going to score his points, and he did,” Huggins said.
The teams exchanged the lead early in the second half, and Cincinnati’s four-point advantage was the biggest for either team during the stretch. But Massie changed all that, starting with about 14 1/2 minutes to play.
He scored the Tigers’ next 10 points, helping them build a 44-28 lead with just over 10 minutes left. The lead grew to 55-40 on Massie’s two free throws with 6:18 left.
Cincinnati couldn’t produce any offense to match Massie, going more than 13 minutes with just one field goal. The Bearcats went 10-of-12 from the line during the drought, but it wasn’t enough to keep pace.
The Bearcats led 29-27 at halftime, thanks to a 9-2 run led by Bobbitt. The reserve guard had seven of his 12 points during the run, which erased a six-point Memphis lead.
The pace was frenzied in the first half, and Cincinnati shot 31.4 percent but turned the ball over just once. Memphis shot 41 percent and had only three turnovers.
Calipari, who like Huggins started a game in a bow tie in honor of Mount St. Mary’s coach Jim Phelan, said there were two things that helped the Tigers overcome the Bearcats halftime lead.
“Chris Massie in the post was a monster, and that bow tie was thrown in the garbage,” said Calipari who came out for the second half in a traditional tie. “Coach Phelan won a lot of games in that bow tie. We weren’t winning the game in that bow tie, and that thing had to go.”