MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Sean Banks and Memphis put on an energetic offensive display in the second half.
Banks scored 21 of his 24 points after halftime to lead the injury-depleted No. 23 Tigers to a 73-66 victory over UAB on Saturday night.
“You saw in the second half there was a five-minute stretch where we just turned it up,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “We just went to another level, and that was basically letting them know that we’re in great shape.”
Memphis (19-4, 10-2, Confernce USA) won its 10th straight game, while UAB, which was trying to beat its second ranked team this week, had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Blazers (16-7, 9-3) beat No. 17 Cincinnati 80-69 on Wednesday night.
“We came out here and left it on the floor,” UAB coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought there was no rhythm to the game by either team.”
Antonio Burks had 16 points, six assists and five steals for Memphis, while Rodney Carney scored 15 points. Carney, Banks and center Arthur Barclay each had eight rebounds for Memphis, which had only seven players Saturday.
“We just really made plays in the second half,” Burks said. “We drove to the goal and kicked it outside to the open man.”
Morris Finley led UAB with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Ronell Taylor had 12 points for the Blazers, while Carldell Johnson finished with 10 and was 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
Banks and Burks carried the Tigers in the second half, thwarting a UAB comeback. Banks was key down the stretch, hitting eight straight free throws, including two with 53 seconds left that gave the Tigers a 71-61 lead, their first double-digit lead of the game.
“The 3’s I hit opened my game a little bit, and allowed me to take the ball to the basket and get fouled,” Banks said. “Then I was able to hit my mid-range jumpers.”
Memphis was short-handed, hampered by the loss of starting guard Jeremy Hunt, who injured his left knee Friday. Also, starting center Ivan Lopez, bothered by an ankle sprain, saw limited playing time.
Both teams started slow, combining to miss 10 of their first 11 shots. Memphis finished the half shooting 37 percent, while UAB managed 33 percent, and the Tigers led 30-24. Memphis would finish the game shooting 45 percent, while UAB was held to 38 percent.
Both teams committed 19 turnovers, a stat that disturbed both coaches.
“Their press did bother us,” Calipari said. “We average about 12 turnovers a game. We got an extra seven (Saturday night).”
Burks and Banks helped Memphis build the lead to nine points twice in the first 11 minutes of the second half. Banks hit five of six shots from the field and Burks connected on all but one of his five.
But Finley stayed just as hot to keep UAB in the game, hitting four of his eight 3-point shots during the same stretch.
With the win, Memphis, which started the conference with road losses at Southern Mississippi and DePaul, is alone atop the standings.
“It feels really good,” Burks said. “This is what we strived for at the beginning of the year.”