NEW YORK (AP)—Rodney Carney scored a career-high 33 points and Memphis ended the surprising tournament run of Saint Mary’s with an 81-66 victory Thursday night in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The 24th-ranked Tigers (3-0) will face the winner of the semifinal between No. 5 Syracuse and No. 12 Mississippi State for the title on Friday night.
Carney, a 6-foot-7 junior, had 20 points in the first half as Memphis took a 42-29 lead. His 3-pointer started a 10-0 run that broke a 17-17 tie and he scored six points in a 9-0 run that gave the Tigers a 38-22 lead with 3:17 left in the half.
Saint Mary’s (2-1), which beat California in the quarterfinals, was the lone mid-major in the field of 16 to reach the semifinals at Madison Square Garden and the Gaels started as if another upset was possible.
Daniel Kickert scored 12 of the Gaels’ first 14 points in the opening 4 minutes. But Memphis used several defenders on him as Saint Mary’s continued to run its spread offense and he finished the half with 15 points.
The Gaels were within 64-56 on five straight points by Kickert with 7:18 to play. Carney and Jeremy Hunt then hit consecutive 3-pointers to extend the lead to 14.
Carney’s previous career-high was 26 points last season against South Carolina. He finished 13-for-20 from the field, including 3-for-3 on 3s, and had nine rebounds.
Sean Banks, one of the most effective defenders against the 6-10 Kickert, added 18 points for Memphis, while freshman Joey Dorsey had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Tigers shot 50.8 percent from the field (32-for-63).
Kickert finished with 24 points and nine rebounds for Saint Mary’s, which is playing at least the first seven games of the season without Paul Marigney, the leading scorer last season in the West Coast Athletic Conference, for academic reasons.
It was the third straight strong defensive outing for Memphis. Saint Mary’s shot 35.8 percent from the field (24-for-67), including 8-for-23 from 3-point range. )