Memphis 90, Northeastern 65
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis fans let Darius Washington know they are still behind him.
Playing for the first time since missing two free throws that would have given the Tigers a NCAA tournament bid, Washington received an extended standing ovation before Memphis defeated Northeastern 90-65 Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.
The win was a refreshing comeback after Saturday’s heartbreaking 75-74 loss to Louisville in the Conference USA championship game. Washington, a freshman, missed two of three free throws after time expired, relegating the Tigers to the NIT.
“It was important to get back and get that sour taste out of our mouth from the loss to Louisville,” said Washington, who scored 13 points.
“That was the most important thing we focused on the last couple of days was coming out with high intensity,” Tiger center Arthur Barclay added. “This is the NIT and there are a lot of good teams in here if you look at the bracket.
“I’m trying to play until we can’t play anymore. We’re not mad that we are playing in the NIT. We’re looking at it as a good thing.”
Jeremy Hunt scored a career-high 24 points and shot 10-for-15 from the field for Memphis (20-15), which will face Virginia Tech in the second round.
Northeastern (21-10) played without star guard Jose Juan Barea, who was suspended for “unnecessarily rough play” while scrambling for a loose ball in the team’s loss to Vermont in the America East championship game. Barea ranks ninth in the nation in scoring average at 22.2 points, and ranks seventh nationally in assists with 7.3.
“It’s tough to play without your leading scorer,” Northeastern coach Ron Everhart said.
Rodney Carney finished with 14 for the Tigers, and Duane Erwin and Barclay each added 10 points.
Marcus Barnes led Northeastern with 19 points, and Adrian Martinez, starting in place of Barea, scored 15. Shawn James, the America East conference rookie and defensive player of the year, finished with 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked seven shots.
Memphis forced the Huskies into eight turnovers early and 12 in the first half. It wasn’t until Bennet Davis hit a 3-pointer for Northeastern with 9:29 left in the half, cutting Memphis’ lead to 21-10, that the Huskies’ points surpassed their turnovers.
“Understand, they didn’t have their best player,” Memphis coach John Calipari said of Northeastern. “That’s why the game kind of got to where it was.
“…This next one, it’s an ACC team. Seth Greenberg was coach of the year in the ACC. They beat Duke. It’s going to be the challenge of challenges for us.”