MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Marquette coach Tom Crean looked only as far as the turnover column to find an explanation for his team’s loss.
“Turnovers were the story of the game, they really were,” Crean said. “Sixteen in the first half; 25 in the game. … When you commit 25 turnovers in a game, it’s going to be awful tough to beat anybody home or away.”
Rodney Carney scored 29 points, and freshman guard Darius Washington had 20 points and five assists in Memphis’ 78-68 victory over No. 22 Marquette on Thursday night.
Carney was 10-of-20 from the field, and Washington was 8-of-14 for the Tigers (9-7, 2-0 Conference USA). Anthony Rice added 17 points.
Dameon Mason led the Golden Eagles (13-2, 1-1) with 20 points, Ryan Amoroso had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Travis Diener also scored 16 points.
Memphis played without Jeremy Hunt, the junior guard recently arrested on misdemeanor assault charges in connection with a complaint filed by his former girlfriend.
Hunt missed the previous seven games with a broken left wrist before being declared fit to play earlier this week. The university said Thursday afternoon that he would not be in uniform until school officials investigate the matter.
Memphis coach John Calipari improved to 4-0 against ranked teams at home.
“The biggest thing for us is offensively, we’re taking better shots and creating better shots, which means we’re shooting a higher percentage,” Calipari said. “We’re good enough defensively. We just haven’t been good enough offensively.”
Marquette had a season-high 25 turnovers, nine by Diener.
“That was our game plan,” Carney said. “We had to pressure Diener and get them out of their offense. We stopped him from running up and down the court, and that really got them out of whack.”
Memphis led 41-25 at the half, with Marquette struggling against the Memphis defense from the outset, committing six turnovers, including three by Diener, before the first media timeout. The Tigers converted the turnovers into baskets, both on drives and 3-pointers, eventually building the lead to 20-3 before the Golden Eagles hit their first basket with 13:30 left.
Marquette averaged a turnover-per-minute through the first 14 minutes. Diener missed all five of his first-half shots and mishandled the ball six times.
“They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league, and we saw why with all that length and athleticism,” Crean said.
Memphis maintained its double-digit lead through the early stages of the second half, although Rice went to the locker room with a broken nose after catching an elbow on Diener’s first field goal of the game—a 3-pointer— with 17:44 left. Rice didn’t return.
The Golden Eagles closed to 63-57 when Amoroso hit a pair of free throws, capping a 14-3 run with 4:42 left. But a 3-point play and a 3-point basket, both by Carney, pushed the Tigers’ lead back to 10.
“The things we worked on in practice, we did in the game,” Calipari said. “We executed. They really concentrated. They know something is at stake now, and they’re not worried about just themselves. Now, it’s about team.”