MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis shot 51 percent and scored 83 points and all everybody wanted to talk about was the Tigers’ defensive performance Wednesday night.
No. 20 Memphis held TCU to 33 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers in an 83-56 victory.
“I was really, really pleased with our first-half defense,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “I just thought it was as good as we have played all year. … We just mauled them.”
Sean Banks scored 25 points to lead Memphis, which moved into first place in Conference USA .
The Tigers (21-5, 12-3) took a half-game lead over No. 13 Cincinnati, which plays DePaul on Thursday night. The Tigers have won 12 of their last 13, the only loss in the string coming last Saturday at No. 25 Louisville.
The Horned Frogs (11-15, 7-8) lost for the fourth time in six games.
In addition to being senior night, the game was probably the last for the Tigers in The Pyramid, Memphis’ home since 1991. Next season, Memphis is expected to move to the new $250 million FedExForum, the future home of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, currently under construction.
Banks was 8-of-13 from the field, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range. Rodney Carney was 7-for-14 from the field and added 22 points for the Tigers. Point guard Antonio Burks, playing in his last home game, added 12 points and eight assists.
Chudi Chinweze led the Horned Frogs with 16 points, 14 in the second half, and Nucleus Smith added 11.
Memphis benefited from poor shooting early by TCU, then closed the half with an 18-7 run to take a 33-18 lead.
“It was pretty frustrating that we didn’t handle their defensive pressure very well,” TCU guard Marcus Shropshire said. “We took some bad shots because of their defense.”
The Horned Frogs missed 12 of their first 13 shots, and already were down by double figures with 11 minutes left in the half. TCU put together a short rally to reduce the deficit to 15-11 before Memphis’ run.
TCU shot 23 percent in the first half and committed 12 turnovers.
“Memphis defended as well as I have seen them defend,” TCU coach Neil Dougherty said. “It took us awhile to even settle down and make a catch, let alone to get into anything. That was directly related to their pressure defense.”
The Horned Frogs made a small push to start the second half, but Memphis maintained its double-digit lead through much of the rally.
Then the Tigers poured on the points. Led by Carney, who had seven straight, Memphis built the lead to 59-35 with 9:42 left. From there, the lead did not drop below 18 the rest of the way.
“I had a driver’s mentality,” Carney said. “I wanted to drive. I knew if I could drive and get people shots or drive and score easy layups, that would open up the game.”
But like everyone else, Carney credited the defensive pressure after halftime as the reason for the runaway victory.
“We just locked down on D, and didn’t allow them to get a run,” Carney said. “Once we did that, they were out of the game.”