Tigers Clinch Another C-USA Title with Tough Win at U.A.B. - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jarvis Greer

Tigers Clinch Another C-USA Title with Tough Win at U.A.B.

Memphis (25-3, 13-0) won its 19th straight overall, the nation's longest winning streak, and 55th in a row in the conference. Even coach John Calipari is a little taken aback by those heady numbers.

"This is one of those teams that you don't know where it's going to come from," Calipari said. "It's crazy. We are trying to do something special. We've been in a lot of tight games."

Memphis trailed by a point before suddenly shrugging off the deficit with a closing 22-10 run over the final 5:40. The Tigers allowed only two field goals over the last 4 minutes while holding Robert Vaden, UAB's leading scorer, scoreless on 0-for-17 shooting.

Mack had 17 points for Memphis, while Anderson had 16 and Robert Dozier 15 points and 10 rebounds. Shawn Taggart added 13 points and 11 boards for Memphis, which shot 56 percent from the field in the second half.

The Blazers (19-9, 9-4) handed the Tigers their last conference loss three years ago and came in having won six straight games and nine of 10.

The Tigers showed there's still a wide gap between themselves and the rest of C-USA with the strong finish, despite committing 19 turnovers. UAB could have kept its slim title hopes alive with a win.

One play that was indicative of how the end of the game went: Anderson was fouled making a bank shot and missed his free throw. Dozier zoomed toward the basket, put the ball back in and was fouled, then made his free throw for a five-point trip that erased UAB's lead for good.

"We've been a bad free throw shooting team for so long that we get a lot of work on rebounding missed free throws," Calipari said.

Former Raleigh-Egypt High School star Lawrence Kinnard led UAB with 25 points, going 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, and 11 rebounds. Paul Delaney III added 18 points and Channing Toney had 11 for the Blazers, who were trying to strengthen their case for an NCAA tournament berth.

But Vaden kept firing blanks after coming into the game averaging 18.3 points and leading the league in 3-pointers. He missed all 12 attempts from beyond the arc and the rest of the team was 7-of-13.

"I've been with him a long time and I've never seen him not make one shot," UAB coach Mike Davis said. "He's had a few bad shooting nights, but I've never seen him have one where he didn't make a shot.

"It might have looked like he wasn't open but he got a lot of shots that he normally makes. I told him to keep shooting."

The Tigers' last visit to Bartow Arena a year ago ended with a 79-78 victory after officials waved off a UAB basket launched just after time ran out. That set off a scary scene where Memphis players jawed with fans who had stormed the court, and debris was launched from the stands.

This one stayed close until the final minutes, too. It was tied at halftime then Memphis took an early eight-point lead in the second half and UAB answered with a 9-0 run.

"Both teams started a little ragged, and both of us were tight at the beginning," Calipari said. "It was tied with 6 minutes to go and it was a hard-fought game, which it is every time we come down here."

But the team that hasn't lost since Dec. 20 to Syracuse, got rolling again with Mack's bank shot after UAB cut it to 54-53 on Kinnard's 3 with 5:06 left. Anderson and Taggart both made two free throws and Vaden missed yet another 3. Mack and Anderson didn't miss their next long-range shots.

Delaney's long, uncontested 3-pointer in the final seconds only made the final run a little less dominant.

Memphis was able to shrug off both the turnover problems and the fact that leading scorer Tyreke Evans was just 3-of-14 from the field and had eight points and nine turnovers.

"Tyreke played awful," Calipari said of the freshman. "That's the worst I've seen him since I've coached him. He's had some bad halves, but he's normally able to flip it over."

The Tigers come home to face Southern Miss Saturday, 12-Noon at FedExForum.

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