Memphis 83, No. 25 Charlotte 69

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis is using the Conference USA tournament to get even with teams that beat it in a recent losing streak. Keeping the run going is also the Tigers’ only hope of reaching the NCAA tournament.

So far, so good.

Rodney Carney scored 20 points, and Memphis continued its winning streak with an 83-69 upset of No. 25 Charlotte in the quarterfinals Thursday night.

Memphis (18-14), the tournament’s No. 7 seed, won for the second straight night after a season-ending four-game skid. St. Louis, Memphis’ first victim in the tournament was one of the losses during that stretch, and Charlotte was another.

“We played ourselves into this hole, so we’ve just got to do what we’ve got to do to get out,” said Memphis center Arthur Barclay, who led a strong rebounding effort with 10 boards, including eight on the offensive end.

“If we continue to have the effort we’ve had the last two nights and play our game, we’ll be fine.”

The Tigers play South Florida after the Bulls upset No. 21 Cincinnati 80-68 in the late game Thursday.

“There was no revenge,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “It’s not us against the world. I’m just trying to get my team to play well.”

Memphis used strong rebounding and benefited from a poor shooting night for second-seeded Charlotte (21-7). The Tigers outrebounded the 49ers 45-33, including 22 on the offensive end that led to 28 second-chance points.

Charlotte shot just 35 percent, including hitting only 8 of 32 shots in the second half. Curtis Withers led the 49ers with 32 points, while C-USA player of the year Eddie Basden scored 13. Withers had the highest scoring total by a Charlotte player in tournament history.

“I know Withers went crazy in the first half and had an unbelievable night,” Calipari said. “My point of it was so he gets 40, and we win. Who cares? You can’t go leaving (3-point specialist Brendan) Plavich. You can’t go leaving Basden.”

Plavich was held to 3 points on 1-of-10 shooting, all outside the arc.

Jeremy Hunt and Anthony Rice added 13 each for Memphis, while Waki Williams added 10.

Memphis opened the biggest lead of the game with an early 8-2 run in the second half as Charlotte missed eight of its first nine shots. The Tigers eventually would extend it to 52-42 on a pair of free throws by Darius Washington just before the 12-minute mark.

“Obviously, our failure to rebound the basketball was critical,” Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz said. “I thought we actually defended well enough if we could have rebounded and not given them second and third chances.

Memphis continued to extend the lead midway through the half, before Lutz got called for a technical with 8:56 left. Carney’s two free throws gave Memphis a 63-45 lead.

The Tigers extended their lead to 20 on Rice’s 3-pointer with 7:53 left. Charlotte never got closer than 12 in the closing seconds.

Memphis led 39-37 after an intense first half that saw 16 lead changes and five ties.

Withers dominated inside during the half, hitting 8 of his 12 shots for 20 points. Meanwhile, Carney continued to come out of a late-season shooting slump, scoring 13 points.

Both teams played tough defense, hustling after loose balls and banging on the boards. The second-half start by Charlotte and the Tigers’ rebounding advantage spelled the difference.

Memphis realizes it must run the table for an NCAA invite. But Calipari said, it’s not like his team has played bad, even during the four-game losing slide with three coming to ranked teams.

“I’ve got a good team. We’ve all got to figure out how we get these guys in the NCAA tournament because I’m telling you this will be the best team I’ve ever had in the NCAA tournament if I can get them there,” Calipari said.

Charlotte, which has now lost three straight, all on the road, must hope this season-ending skid doesn’t cost its chance. Two of those were senior nights at Louisville and South Florida, then Thursday’s tournament loss.

“Hopefully, we’ll get a bid,” Lutz said. “We should. It’s out of our hands now, but I think we’ve earned it despite these three games.”

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
E. Basden E. Basden
4-12,  13 Pts
7 Rebs, 6 Assists
R. Carney R. Carney
7-14,  20 Pts
6 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders