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Memphis beats Rice 73-51 in game marred by fight

AP - Sports
Memphis beats Rice 73-51 in game marred by fight
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Memphis' Tarik Black, rear, scrambles for a rebound along with teammate Will Barton during the first …

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Will Barton and Tarik Black, two key players for Memphis, weren't around to see the end of Wednesday night's game against Rice.

Their departure after a second-half skirmish that saw multiple players ejected just meant they didn't see the ultimate margin of the Tigers victory over the Owls.

Chris Crawford scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Memphis to a 73-51 victory over Rice.

Antonio Barton added 11 points and Tarik Black had 10, hitting all five of his shots before he was ejected during a skirmish under the Tigers basket with 7:21 left in the game.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson was on a breakaway after a turnover by Rice's Tamir Jackson, who then fouled Joe Jackson hard as he went up for the layup.

''It looked bad from my angle,'' Will Barton said. ''I thought (Joe Jackson) was out. He was up pretty high and dude just came and got him out of nowhere. I was just concerned. I thought he had cracked his head. He went down pretty hard, so I just reacted.''

Officials immediately called an intentional foul on Tamir Jackson, who was ejected, but the players then got into a tussle under the Tigers' basket that quickly escalated. That brought Memphis coach Josh Pastner running into the fray trying to separate and push players aside.

''Those two were okay,'' Rice coach Ben Braun said of Tamir Jackson and Joe Jackson. ''But the other guys who came off the bench down there in front of their bench, including (Pastner), came out and ran the floor. I don't think that needed to happen.''

Braun later added that Pastner was even pushing Rice players.

''I know Josh. I don't think that was his intention. I think he just reacted, but that never helps anything.''

Will Barton and Trey Draper of Memphis (14-6, 5-1 Conference USA), along with Black, were ejected for leaving the bench.

Tamir Jackson had 10 points for Rice (11-10, 2-4) before being ejected.

By the time all the resulting foul shots fell, the Tigers still led 60-37.

Connor Frizzelle and Omar Oraby also finished with 10 points for the Owls. Oraby also had four blocks.

Arsalan Kazemi, the Owls' leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, entered the game hampered by a bad knee and aggravated the injury just before halftime. He was limited to four points.

In addition to Kazemi's knee problems, Lucas Kuipers, a reserve forward who averages 7.1 points per game, and Emerson Herndon, another reserve, were suspended for the game by Braun for violating unspecified team rules.

That left Rice short-handed against Memphis.

The first half was ragged at times with Memphis missing shots in close, and Rice having trouble holding onto the ball, committing eight turnovers. Both teams shot poorly in the opening half - Memphis hitting at a 39.4 percent clip (13 of 33) and Rice connecting on 7 of 23 (30.4 percent).

Memphis held a moderate 24-20 lead with 3:25 left before halftime, but went on an 11-1 run to build its biggest lead of the half at 35-21. The Tigers eventually carried a 35-23 lead into the dressing room.

Kazemi, Rice's leading scorer who also leads the conference in rebounding at 11.7 a game, tried to intercept a Memphis pass and got tangled up with Tigers forward D.J. Stephens. Kazemi was on the floor for a short time before being helped to the bench, and eventually to the locker room.

He returned to start the second half, but was limping slightly.

With the Owls' leading scorer hampered, they continued to fall behind.

Memphis opened the second half with a 10-4 burst and carried the lead to 22 near the eight-minute mark of the second half. The lead eventually reached 27.

''We did get a win, and I thought we played well defensively and offensively even though the numbers might not have shown it,'' Pastner said.

The only excitement left after that was the fight, which got the crowd back into it.

Memphis officials said after the game that none of the three Tiger players ejected will be suspended for Saturday's home game against Marshall. Pastner added that Tamir Jackson also will not be suspended when the Owls face Tulane, also on Saturday.

''That's part of what goes on,'' Braun said of the altercation. ''I can tell you this: I don't think Tamir was trying to hurt somebody, but he went up to obviously try to make a hard play on the ball. It was flagrant, and we accept that, but there's no question I don't think his object was to take a guy out.''

Pastner defended his reaction saying he was concerned about Joe Jackson and wanted to make sure he was all right. But Pastner was upset with his coaching staff at the time when the three Memphis players left the bench. He screamed at his assistants about them doing their job and making sure players didn't go onto the floor.

''We have gone over that you can't leave the bench as a team,'' Pastner said. ''We've gone over that. We've shown film on that.''

In talking about the Tigers' overall play in the game, Will Barton replied: ''I didn't get to see the rest of the stats because I had to leave early.''

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