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Tigers overcome Morrow's heroics

From electronic and staff reports
All rights reserved.

Junior forward Darrius Morrow continued his individual rampage through the Conference USA Tournament Friday but his eighth-seeded East Carolina team finally ran short of the magic that has propelled the perennially underachieving program to milestone accomplishments in a memorable season.

Morrow's monster game — 25 points and 14 rebounds — was countered by a motivated Memphis team that made shots from short range, long range and everywhere in between to defeat the Pirates 76-56 in a semifinal matchup in El Paso.

Freshman guard Joe Jackson scored a career-high 24 points to lead the fourth-seeded Tigers, who avenged a loss to ECU in the final week of the regular season with the win.

Memphis made 50.9 percent of its field goal attempts, including 55.6 percent from 3-point range.

Morrow, who dominated the backboards, also displayed a knack for accuracy from the floor, connecting on 7-of-12 shots and 11-of-13 from the free throw line. But ECU as a team hit only 36 percent of its field goal tries, 28.6 percent from behind the arc.

The performance amounted to a third straight highlight reel for Morrow. He led the Pirates with 18 points in an opening round thumping of No. 9 seed Central Florida and was a one-man wrecking crew with 22 points and 14 rebounds in a shocking upset of top seed UAB in the semifinals.

ECU senior forward Jamar Abrams joined Morrow in double figure with 12 points.

Junior guard Charles Carmouche scored 19 points and senior forward Will Coleman contributed 11 for Memphis.

Memphis controlled the tempo from start to finish. The Tigers led at halftime 42-29 and built their lead to as much as 29 in the opening minutes of the second half.

The Pirates were handicapped by the absence of senior point guard Brock Young. Young, named this week as C-USA's Sixth Man of the Year, injured a knee in ECU's win over the Blazers on Thursday and did not suit up for the semifinal matchup.

East Carolina first-year head coach Jeff Lebo congratulated the Tigers while bragging on Morrow in the postgame press conference.

“They played outstanding, 10-of-18 from three. We hoped that they wouldn’t shoot the ball well," he said. "I thought Darrius was terrific in the game, scoring 25. Give Memphis credit — they were bouncy, athletic, made shots and defended us well."

Lebo also noted the impact of Young's absence from the lineup.

"Certainly the loss of Brock Young was a big factor in the game too," he said. "We didn’t have much depth.”

The triumph advanced Memphis into a championship game showdown today against No. 3 seed Texas-El Paso (11:30 a.m., CBS).

In the event Memphis doesn't capture the title and the accompanying automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the convincing victory over ECU also served to polish the Tigers' credentials for an at-large invitation from the NCAA Tournament's selection committee.

In his postgame comments, Memphis coach Josh Pastner talked about his team's postseason aspirations and said the win over the Pirates would help.

“Personally, I believe we got a great resume to compare to compare to people across the country," he said. "I really believe that. That is our 12th top 100 win and we have a good RPI and strength of schedule, and after this game we’ll probably be No. 30 or above that. Our resume is pretty darn good if you look at some of these other teams that are being talked about. It’s not even in the same league.

"Fortunately, the committee has great members on staff and I think this league is good and underrated. It’s a multiple-bid league, there is no doubt in my mind.”

Despite the loss, the Pirates may have played themselves into position to pursue some postseason ambitions of their own. Five wins in their last seven games, including signature victories over UTEP, Memphis and UAB — three of the C-USA Tournament's top four seeds — won't get them a bid to the NCAA Field of 68, but could garner the attention of one of the other postseason invitational tournaments.

In any event, ECU (18-15) will have its first winning season in 14 years as well as the satisfaction of finishing the regular season with an 8-8 record in conference play. The Pirates had never previously recorded more than five C-USA wins in a season.

ECU's two victories in the league tournament also established a new benchmark. Since joining C-USA in 2001, the program had never won a tournament game.

Conference USA Tournament Scoreboard & Schedule



Date: Friday, Mar. 11, 2011.
Event: Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship.
Place: Don Haskins Center, El Paso, TX.
Attendance: 9,496.
Records: ECU 18-15; Memphis 24-9.

East Carolina     29 27 -  56
Memphis           42 34 -  76

 # PLAYER                    FG   3PT    FT  R PTS MIN
01 Darrius Morrow...... f  7-12   0-0 11-13 14  25  37
21 Jamar Abrams........ f  4-12   4-9   0-0  2  12  38
11 Corvonn Gaines...... g   1-5   0-3   1-3  0   3  36
23 Erin Straughn....... g   1-5   1-4   0-0  4   3  28
24 Jontae Sherrod...... g   2-6   1-4   2-2  2   7  31
03 Petar Torlak..........   0-0   0-0   0-0  0   0   5
12 Robert Sampson........   1-3   0-1   0-0  2   2  11
33 Chad Wynn.............   2-6   0-0   0-0  3   4  11
35 Darius Morales........   0-1   0-0   0-0  0   0   3
TEAM.....................                    5
TOTALS................... 18-50  6-21 14-18 32  56 200
PERCENT..................  36.0  28.6  77.8

 # PLAYER                    FG   3PT    FT  R PTS MIN
10 Tarik Black......... f   0-2   0-0   0-0  1   0  13
02 Antonio Barton...... g   1-6   0-2   0-0  5   2  27
03 Chris Crawford...... g   2-5   1-3   0-0  1   5  28
04 Charles Carmouche... g   6-7   3-4   4-4  5  19  32
05 Will Barton......... g   4-9   1-3   0-1  4   9  32
00 Will Coleman..........   4-6   0-0   3-4  4  11  20
01 Joe Jackson...........  8-12   3-3   5-5  1  24  24
11 Wesley Witherspoon....   1-4   1-2   0-1  2   3  12
12 Drew Barham...........   0-0   0-0   0-0  0   0   1
23 Charles Holt..........   1-1   1-1   0-0  0   3   1
30 D.J. Stephens.........   0-1   0-0   0-0  3   0   9
31 Preston Laird.........   0-0   0-0   0-0  0   0   1
TEAM.....................                    7
TOTALS................... 27-53 10-18 12-15 33  76 200
PERCENT..................  50.9  55.6  80.0

Officials: Rick Hartzell, Rick Crawford, John Hampton.
Technical Fouls: None.

PAGE UPDATED 03/13/11 03:19 AM.

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