TULSA, Okla. (AP)—Chris Douglas-Roberts was none too happy after his first try for a steal was immediately taken away.
“I stole it and the man grabbed me, and coach started yelling,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I was steaming, boiling mad.”
Douglas-Roberts came right back for two quick steals to help No. 8 Memphis pull away for a 69-52 win against Tulsa on Wednesday night.
The sophomore guard ended up with 20 points and tied his career-high with four steals, and Antonio Anderson returned from an injury to score 15 points as the Tigers clinched a bye in the Conference USA tournament.
“It’s kind of a big deal, but we can’t overlook any teams or any games we have left,” Douglas-Roberts said. Next up for the Tigers is a game at Gonzaga on Saturday.
Memphis (22-3, 12-0) took control with a run late in the first half and led by at least nine throughout the second half en route to its 14th straight win.
Douglas-Roberts scored the final seven points during a 10-0 Memphis run that put the game away midway through the second half. After a 3-pointer by Andre Allen, Douglas-Roberts hit five straight free throws—earning a pair of trips to the foul line after stealing the ball and getting fouled on consecutive possessions.
His last basket came when Tulsa’s Darold Crow was called for goaltending on his shot from the left side that ended the run and put the Tigers up 58-38. That earned the Tigers’ leading scorer a trip to the bench, where he toweled off before sitting out the final 6:39.
“I just wanted to take it over,” Douglas-Roberts said. “Sometimes it’s a ticky-tack game, and my teammates just want me to take it over. And that’s what I did.”
Tulsa (15-9, 5-6), with the lowest shooting percentage in Conference USA, struggled against Memphis’ stingy defense. The Tigers rank fifth in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot only 38 percent.
The Golden Hurricane, who average 38.1 percent shooting in conference play, made only 32 percent of their shots after an even slower start.
“We had a heck of a defensive effort, creating turnovers, contesting shots,” Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik started four freshmen, and they were outsized by Memphis.
“What we’ve got to work on on offense is being able to get our shots off against guys like that,” Wojcik said.
Wojcik said his first priority for his team was limiting turnovers, but the Tigers were able to score 24 points off 19 giveaways. The Golden Hurricane got only two points off Memphis’ season-low seven turnovers.
“That’s the game,” Wojcik said.
Freshman Jamel McLean scored a career-high 16 to lead Tulsa, including eight after the Tigers were already up by 20. He also matched his career-high with eight rebounds and had a career-best four blocks.
Memphis evened the all-time series at 12-12, catching up after Tulsa won the first 11 meetings. The Golden Hurricane lost for the second time in 16 home games this season.
The Tigers surged ahead with a 10-0 first-half run that included three-point plays by Douglas-Roberts and Anderson, who’d missed the Tigers’ last game against Tulane after spraining his right ankle early in Memphis’ previous game at UAB.
“I think he’s a little bit fresher. He’s been out about a week now,” Calipari said. “He looked pretty good today.”
Douglas-Roberts made it 26-14 with a steal that led to a two-handed, fast-break dunk.
Memphis was up 34-24 at halftime after holding Tulsa to 6-for-27 shooting (22 percent) and forcing 11 turnovers.