No. 24 Memphis 75, George Mason 58
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis coach John Calipari is constantly riding his players about their defense.
In two games, the No. 24 Tigers have been successful in forcing teams into bad shooting nights. That was the case Saturday night in a 75-58 victory over George Mason in the second round of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
“We did a nice job defensively,” Calipari said. “I was probably on them more than I needed to be. I was on them about execution, which I am usually not as hard about, especially early in the season.”
Memphis (2-0) will face St. Mary’s in the national semifinals Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. In the other semifinal, No. 6 Syracuse will play No. 12 Mississippi State.
Sean Banks had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Memphis. Banks struggled from the field, hitting only five of his 20 shots, but was 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“We need Sean Banks to rebound,” Calipari said. “He fought like heck and got 11 rebounds. I have been on him as hard as anybody I have ever coached.”
Rodney Carney and Darius Washington added 12 points each, and Anthony Rice finished with 11. Joey Dorsey had his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“When you have four very good perimeter players, and one big man inside, those are the hardest teams to guard,” George Mason coach Jim Larranaga said. “You can’t leave any of them open.”
Jai Lewis led George Mason (1-1) with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Lamar Butler added 13 points. The Patriots struggled from the field, shooting 28 percent, including 3-for-19 from 3-point range.
Memphis led 41-32 at the half, but George Mason stayed close despite shooting 29 percent from the field, including 2-of-10 from 3-point range. The Patriots hit all but one of their 13 free throws in the half.
Lewis had nine points for George Mason, but was hampered with foul problems, sitting out the final 6 minutes of the half.
George Mason chipped into the lead early in the second half and eventually cut it to five at 49-44, before Memphis clicked off seven straight points, part of a 12-1 run, to build it back to double digits.
“That was our last best chance of making it a close game down the stretch,” Larranaga said. “Then we went to the bench, and (Memphis) started really going to the offensive boards.”
Lewis did his best to keep George Mason in the game. Using his size underneath and spin moves on the baseline, he scored seven of George Mason’s eight points in one stretch, cutting the lead to 63-54, the only time the Patriots got the Memphis lead under double digits in the final 12 minutes.
Larranaga said the Memphis offensive weapons, and their rebounding power created a couple of bad stretches for the Patriots. Ideally, he would like to have kept the game in the 50s, but with Memphis holding a 50-35 advantage on the boards, George Mason couldn’t slow down the Tigers.
“That gives you a chance,” Larranaga said of holding ranked opponent, like Memphis, to the 50s. “This game, once Memphis was able to get it up into the 70s, we probably couldn’t produce that number of points against a team like this.”
Calipari probably will continue harping on his team about defense, but in the first two games, the Tigers have held opponents to 25 and 28 percent shooting.
“For this early in the season,” Calipari said, “to guard the way we have been and to rebound the way we have, I am pleased.”