Saint Louis 72, No. 23 Memphis 61

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CINCINNATI (AP)—Ever so slowly, No. 23 Memphis got its heart broken again.

Izik Ohanon led a late 16-2 run that sent Saint Louis to a 72-61 victory over the stunned Tigers in the Conference USA tournament quarterfinals on Thursday night.

Saint Louis (18-11) will face Cincinnati in the semifinals, hoping its slog-it-out pace lulls another opponent and takes the Bearcats’ crowd out of game. Cincinnati won the regular-season meeting by 25 points on Feb. 25.

“Quite frankly, that night they were men and we were boys,” coach Brad Soderberg said. “They just physically hammered us. We could lose tomorrow— that would be no surprise—but it won’t be because we didn’t battle.”

The Tigers (21-7) put up little fight down the stretch. They had plenty of trouble with the Billikens’ slow pace, getting out of sync at the outset and falling apart at the end. Ohanon had eight points in the decisive spurt.

“We pride ourselves on defense all season, and we had multiple breakdowns all night,” Memphis forward Duane Erwin said. “It was just a fight from 0-0 to stay in it.”

It marked the end to a numbing six-day stretch for the Tigers, who went into the weekend with a chance to win the conference’s regular-season title outright.

Memphis lost to Cincinnati on a last-second shot Saturday, forging a five-way tie for the title. The Tigers then got eliminated from the tournament in their first game.

Instead of heading into the NCAA tournament on a roll, the Tigers will watch the selections on Sunday wondering how low they’ll go.

“We’ve got a chance to redeem ourselves,” forward Rodney Carney said. “Hopefully we’ll get together and do that.”

Reggie Bryant led Saint Louis with 18 points, and Ohanon had 14.

Saint Louis likes a slow pace, and managed to impose it on Memphis from the outset. Opponents average only 59.2 points against the Billikens, who drain the clock down before shooting and get back on defense to stop fast breaks.

Memphis didn’t handle it well at all.

Point guard Antonio Burks, the conference’s player of the year, went 2-for-11 from the field for a season-low six points. He had 22 in Memphis’ nine-point victory over Saint Louis on Feb. 7.

“The first time we played them, I didn’t attack him and make him feel pressure,” said Josh Fisher, who guarded him in both games. “I played too far off him, and he hit a couple of shots early and just got going. I went out tonight and challenged him, and his shot wasn’t falling as usual.”

He wasn’t the only one to struggle. Freshman forward Sean Banks, who had averaged 25.5 points in the last six games, was only 5-of-15 for 17 points.

Saint Louis pulled out to a 26-12 lead by patiently working for open shots and hitting 10 of its first 14. By contrast, Memphis tried to force matters and wound up making them worse.

Memphis’ Rodney Carney tried to make an emphatic, flying dunk to break the spell, but wound up smacking the ball off the back of the rim.

The Tigers got back into it by energizing their defense and forcing five turnovers in a 10-point run that cut it to 26-22, but Memphis could never get control.

No matter what it tried, Memphis couldn’t speed up the pace or take the lead. Carney hit a pair of 3s and Banks made a 15-foot jumper in a 10-3 spurt that tied it at 45 with 8:16 to go, the first tie since early in the game.

Saint Louis immediately put together the decisive run behind Ohanon, who had a jumper, a dunk, a layup and two free throws as Saint Louis pulled ahead 61-47.

Memphis never got closer than nine points the rest of the way, and turned the ball over on three straight possessions in the last two minutes to end any hopes of a comeback.

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