MEMPHIS, TN -- Memphis was able to continue its streak as they kept their record at home perfect. The Tigers (10-4) advanced to 9-0 at home against the South Carolina Gamecocks tonight at the Fed Ex Forum. More importantly, the Tigers were able to clinch a win over a to 30 RPI team as they gained momentum before heading back into conference play next week.
In tonight's matchup, the driving force behind the win was junior guard Markel Crawford, who scored a career-high 28 points. His previous career-high had come in an upset against Oklahoma on Dec. 17 when he scored 20 in a 99-94 overtime victory in Norman.
His efforts was complemented by Dedric Lawson, who ended the night with 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Jimario Rivers added 10.
South Carolina (10-3) was led by sophomore guard P.J. Dozier, who finished with 13 points before fouling out of the game. The Tigers shot 60 percent on 9 of 15 shooting in the second half and 46.5 percent for the game, while holding the Gamecocks to 28 percent shooting on 9 of 32 in the second half and 31.6 percent for the game. South Carolina was slowed by 19 turnovers.
With a five point lead at the half, Memphis gradually built a nine-point lead behind Crawford. He began to use his influence with a perfect entry pass to Dedric Lawson for a short hook to make it a 35-31 lead. Crawford followed up with an alley-oop dunk with a pass from K.J. Lawson and added a free throw to complete a three-point play for a 38-33 advantage.
The Gamecocks came back to cut the lead to within one, 39-38, after a baseline jumper by Justin McKie. Crawford scored seven of the next 11 points for the Tigers to make it a 50-41 lead, capping the 11-3 run with a twisting layup and a free throw for another three-point play.
The Tigers stretched their lead to 13 just two minutes later after Dedric Lawson made a pair of free throws. With the score being 54-41, Memphis withstood a flurry of 3-pointers from South Carolina in the remaining six minutes of the game to defeat a team that is nationally ranked in the season as high as 15th in the AP poll.
The success of Memphis is due to their ability to overcome the poor first-half shooting of 11-of-28 for 39 percent and a difficult opening 20 minutes for Dedric Lawson, who was limited to seven points on 1-of-5 shooting, but had 10 rebounds and five assists to offset his first half struggles.
Aided by 11 turnovers from the Gamecocks, Memphis found itself in a five minute scoring drought, but the Gamecocks failed to take advantage. The Tigers went on an 11-0 run midway through the half to take a 23-15 lead that eventually became extended to 10 points making the score 29-19 after a three-point play by Jeremiah Martin with 3:25 to go.
Dozier entered the game averaging 20.8 points, but was kept to 2-of-9 shooting and just five points in the first half. He ended the final game of 2016 scoring 13 points in 24 minutes of action. Foul trouble weighted heavily on the Gamecocks as the final period set in. Not only did Dozier foul out, but leading rebounder Chris Silva picked up his fifth foul with six minutes to go as the Tigers began pulling away to take its largest lead of the game before the final buzzer, 70-54.
Memphis resumes American Athletic Conference play on Thursday at home against UConn. South Carolina will look for a fresh start as they begin SEC play when they travel to face Georgia next Wednesday in Athens.