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Memphis 93, Central Florida 71

The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS - In its first game as a ranked team since November, Memphis showed it intends to stay there for the remainder of the season.

Scoring 30 points off turnovers and recording 25 fast-break points, the No. 22 Tigers blew away Central Florida in the second half for a 93-71 Conference USA rout at FedEx Forum.

Joe Jackson's 21 points led five players in double figures for Memphis (21-3, 10-0), which canned 59 percent of its field goal attempts and drew assists off 28 of its 38 buckets. Geron Johnson added 19, Adonis Thomas contributed 17 points, and D.J. Stephens and Chris Crawford each netted 10.

Isaiah Sykes tallied 17 points but also had nine turnovers for the Knights (17-7, 7-3). Daiquan Walker scored 14, Tristan Spurlock added 11 and Keith Clanton, the preseason conference Player of the Year, was held to 10 points - six under his average.

It was the 15th straight win for the Tigers, who haven't lost since an 87-78 setback against Louisville on Dec. 15. They started the season ranked No. 17, but fell out of the Top 25 after going 1-2 at the Battle at Atlantis.

Memphis led by just six points at the half, but did what it wanted in the second half, opening up its lead to as large as 34 points in the final three minutes.

The game quickly boiled down to a simple plot. When Central Florida limited live-ball turnovers and was able to set up its 3-2 zone defense, it competed quite well. When Memphis knocked the ball loose and got its fast break in high gear, it dominated.

The Knights led 12-8 less than seven minutes into the first half before the Tigers scored on six straight possessions to take a five-point lead. UCF responded with an 8-2 spurt, regaining a 22-21 edge on Isaiah Sykes' shot-clock beating 3-pointer.

But Memphis took control in the half's last four minutes, scoring on seven of its final eight possessions -- all the buckets were dunks or layups -- to establish a 42-36 edge at intermission.

NOTES: Memphis guard Antonio Barton missed his first game since breaking his right foot in the Tigers' 89-76 win Saturday at Southern Mississippi. Barton, who's averaging 6.2 points, will sit out four to six weeks. ... Memphis and Central Florida are departing Conference USA after the school year, but they will maintain their rivalry, as they are ticketed for the Big East Conference. ... The Knights are the only C-USA squad to own two wins over teams ranked in the RPI Top 50, toppling Belmont (20) and Southern Miss (46).

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