Memphis 83, Virginia Tech 62

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)— Sure, Memphis would rather be in the NCAA tournament. Right now, however, the Tigers simply want to keep playing.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” Memphis center Arthur Barclay said. “We’re in the NIT, and we’re making the best of it. We’re happy they let us in, so we’re going to try and take advantage of it and win the whole thing.”

Memphis (21-15) took another step Saturday toward the semifinals in Madison Square Garden. Rodney Carney scored 17 points, leading five Memphis players in double figures helping the Tigers beat Virginia Tech 83-62 in the second round.

Anthony Rice added 16 and Jeremy Hunt scored 15 for the Tigers, who held a double-digit lead throughout the second half. Darius Washington had 14 points and five assists.

Virginia Tech (16-14) shot poorly late in the first half to give Memphis the lead for good. The Hokies also struggled from the foul line, hitting only 16 of 29 in the game.

“Their defense is good,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “They’re long. They’re strong, and they are very quick to help. They contest well.”

Memphis made only half its free throws (13 of 26), but the Tigers got their transition game running, and in the second half poured on the points.

“We just played the fourth-place ACC team, and we were up 25 points,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “We’re a pretty good team also.”

Jamon Gordon led the Hokies with 16 points while Carlos Dixon scored 13. Zabian Dowdell, Virginia Tech’s leading scorer, managed only eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

The Tigers dominated the boards 47-35, another key.

“They kicked our tails on the glass, plain and simple,” Greenberg said. “They basically were bigger and stronger than us.

Barclay, the Memphis senior center, was a major contributor. He grabbed 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, but never took a shot, not even a putback.

“I jump maybe 3 inches, and that’s on a good day,” said Barclay, who has been beset by knee injuries during his career. “It’s all about positioning and playing hard. If you play harder than your opponent, it’s going to be hard. Most people don’t want to play hard.”

Neither team led by more than three points through the first 16 minutes. In the stretch, there were 12 lead changes and five ties. Virginia Tech was shooting well, and Memphis was controlling the boards.

But Virginia Tech suddenly began misfiring, hitting only one of its last 10 shots in the final eight minutes of the half. The Tigers went on a 15-2 run to close the period and led 41-27 at the break.

Carney had 10 points, despite hitting only three of his 10 first-half shots. Dixon scored 10 for the Hokies.

Memphis moved in front 47-29 early in the second half. It weathered a brief rally by the Hokies and maintained a double-digit advantage, holding a 76-50 lead with 5:36 left.

“We laid the foundation,” Greenberg said. “Building a program is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Last year, having a winning season. This season, getting to postseason play.”

“We tried,” he added. “We’re a work in progress. We’re not quick-fixing this thing.”

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