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No. 16 Memphis manhandles NSU

Demons torrid non-conference schedule continues with woes against the Tigers
MEMPHIS – After fears of a fierce ice storm overnight were unfounded, the nationally-ranked Memphis Tigers heated up the FedEx Forum Saturday afternoon with a fiery 10-minute eruption into halftime, turning a five-point lead into a commanding advantage in a 96-76 triumph over visiting Northwestern State.

Memphis (6-1, No. 16 in the AP Top 25, 15th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll) closed the first half on a 35-13 tear over the final 10:22, blasting open a 21-16 game. The Demons got no closer than the final margin afterward.

The Tigers sank 54 percent of their shots overall as the Demons (3-4) connected on 40 percent, but only 3 of 18 behind the 3-point arc while the Tigers made 8 of 19, including 6 of 10 in the first half when they took command.

Shaq Goodwin scored 21, Joe Jackson 18 and Michael Dixon Jr. 14 for Memphis, which showed no signs of a hangover after knocking off No. 6 Oklahoma State last weekend. The Tigers sank 58 percent of their first-half shots while holding the Demons to 30 percent aim to establish a 56-29 lead.

“We kept taking the ball to the bucket, didn’t get fouled and didn’t make shots. We stood around waiting for a call and they ran out, ran out, ran out,” said Demons’ coach Mike McConathy.  “The 3-point barrage they had, we were there in position, but didn’t contest those shots, and they knocked them down.”

Northwestern got 15 points, nine assists and five steals by sophomore point guard Jalan West, leading six Demons in double figures. DeQuan Hicks scored 13, Patrick Robinson 12, Sabri Thompson 11 while Zeek Woodley and Brison White each added 10 points. Hicks added four of the visitors’ 13 steals.

NSU sank 52 percent of its shots after halftime, and made 11 of 13 free throws, but couldn’t significantly chill Memphis, which made 49 percent overall in the final 20 minutes.

“We played the second half like we played the first 12 minutes of the game,” said McConathy.  “We’ve got to get out of the trend of having lulls, and against a team the caliber of Memphis, you cannot afford to have that many empty possessions again and again. They’re explosive.”

Robinson, a senior swingman, was one point shy of his career scoring high. Thompson, a true freshman guard, scored in double digits for the second straight game, after 13 in last Saturday’s 107-100 win over Niagara.

Memphis had a 47-35 rebounding advantage, including a 23-12 bulge in the second half that kept NSU from cutting further into the Tigers’ lead. Marvin Frazier had six rebounds and Robinson grabbed five.

“The stats don’t reflect the improvement I thought we made on rebounding against a physically imposing front line,” said McConathy.  “We have a lot of work to do and there were some things today which could be signs of progress.”

The Demons will visit Louisiana Tech Wednesday night and play their only home game of the month next Saturday against Louisiana College.
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