Evans leads No. 8 Memphis over S. Miss 72-47

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP)—Memphis coach John Calipari thinks he has the nation’s best freshman—again.

Fantastic first-year player Tyreke Evans scored 19 points, including nine straight during the clinching run, and seniors Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier added 12 each on a milestone day to lead No. 8 Memphis to a 72-47 win over Southern Miss on Saturday.

“That’s what he does,” Dozier said of the 6-foot-6 point guard. “That’s what we expect from him.”

Just as Derrick Rose lifted a group of upperclassmen in search of a floor leader to an appearance in the national title game last year, Evans has this season’s Tigers believing they can get back.

His personal 9-2 run early in the second half helped the Tigers (22-3, 10-0 Conference USA) to their 16th straight win and the team’s three seniors to their 126th victory, tying the school record. They have seven regular season games and the postseason to extend that record. After that, Calipari’s not sure what the Tigers will do.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “And how about this one—both are going to graduate in May on time in four years. Both have 1,000 points, both have 500 rebounds. When we lose those two guys—the guts of the team, the leadership— it will be a sad day.”

Memphis is getting the most out of their seniors while they’re still around. The win over Southern Miss (13-11, 3-7) was the 52nd straight Conference USA victory and kept Tigers on the path to a third straight undefeated league campaign.

The Tigers haven’t lost since Dec. 20, when they fell to then-No. 11 Syracuse. They have the second-longest winning streak in the nation, trailing No. 21 Utah State’s 19-game stretch that was on the line later Saturday against Boise State.

The 47 points is the third lowest point total of the season by a Memphis opponent, but the game looked as if it would be closer when Southern Miss took a quick 32-31 lead out of the half. But Evans dashed the Golden Eagles’ momentum, hitting consecutive 3s to push Memphis’ lead to seven. Meanwhile, the Tigers held Southern Miss to a single field goal during a stretch of 7:25, and the resulting 21-5 run gave Memphis it’s biggest lead at 52-37 with 11:49 left.

Evans scored 15 points in the second half and afterward attributed a slow start that included 0-for-4 from 3-point range to his decision to wear two sets of tights under his uniform to help protect groin and hip injuries. He slipped off a pair in the locker room and returned feeling fancy free.

“They were bothering me,” Evans said. “I took them off and it was better. I felt more loose and I could jump higher on my shots.”

The Golden Eagles got 15 points from Jeremy Wise and 12 from Courtney Beasley. Those players usually give the Tigers fits in Hattiesburg and the same was true Saturday until midway through the second half.

At that point, Memphis’ trapping, pressing defense started to tire out Southern Miss, which relies on its starters for 90 percent of its points.

“If you watch them over the years, no one could really press Southern Miss because they get it up the middle of the court for layups,” Calipari said. “We worked on that for two days—that alone. What we did was basically wear them out because they don’t have any subs right now.”

Southern Miss has lost two players to injury, including its best frontcourt player, and another to eligibility issues, leaving coach Larry Eustachy with few options to improve his depth. Calipari said he felt Southern Miss would be a 20-game winner had Sai’Quon Stone not gone down.

But Eustachy wasn’t buying the injury excuse after the team’s fifth straight loss.

“Our team is where it’s at right now because of me,” he said. “I’ve been here five years and there is nobody to blame but for the results except myself. I’m the CEO of the company. It’s disappointing, but I’m not discouraged.”

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