(5) Memphis 77

(14-2, 1-0 C-USA)

East Carolina 67

(6-8, 0-1 C-USA)

    7:00 PM ET, January 11, 2006

    Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    1 2 T
    #5MEM 32 4577
    ECU 32 3567

    Top Performers

    Memphis: R. Carney 27 Pts, 4 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl

    East Carolina: C. Rouse 20 Pts, 12 Reb, 1 Ast

    Carney scores 27 as No. 5 Memphis wins C-USA opener

    GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Memphis is still figuring out the best way to attack a zone defense and play on the road with a target on its back.

    Rodney Carney scored 27 points Wednesday night to help the fifth-ranked Tigers hold off East Carolina 77-67, giving Memphis its first road win in nearly a month.

    Shawne Williams added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Tigers (14-2), who had to fight the entire way to remain unbeaten against the Pirates (6-8) in the Conference USA opener for both teams.

    The Tigers -- whose only losses were to top-ranked Duke and Texas (No. 9 ESPN/USA Today; No. 8 AP) -- hardly played up to their lofty ranking against a program that hasn't had a winning record in nine years. They struggled with their shooting, opting for plenty of 3-point attempts against the Pirates' zone -- which appears to be the textbook strategy for matching up with Memphis after the Tigers' loss to the Longhorns and a tougher-than-expected win against Winthrop.

    But, with the game tied at halftime, Memphis did enough after the break in front of a rowdy and hostile sellout crowd to win in its first road game since beating Mississippi on Dec. 17.

    Consider it a small step forward for a team that played five freshmen, two sophomores and two seniors.

    "Some of the teammates thought we'd just come out and easily beat them, but I knew that we wouldn't," said Carney, a senior who hit six 3-pointers. "I knew they'd come out and play hard and make incredible shots, that the fans would get on us and we wouldn't get no calls. That's what I told them and that's exactly what happened. It's hard to play down here."

    Memphis was the highest-ranked team ever to visit Minges Coliseum, a place where the Pirates have had recent success against ranked teams. They earned two wins against Marquette, beating the ninth-ranked Golden Eagles in 2001-02 and the Dwyane Wade-led Final Four team that was ranked 13th the following season.

    But East Carolina was 1-7 against other ranked teams at Minges, and the Tigers added another loss to that mark -- though not without quite a fight from the Pirates.

    Memphis shot just 37 percent, including 10-for-35 from behind the arc, and had trouble getting easy baskets in transition. But the Tigers kept pressing the Pirates to wear them down, and knocked down enough big shots while holding East Carolina without a field goal for almost the final 8 minutes.

    "Every team's going to play their best when they play against us because we've got a tiger on our back," Williams said. "Everyone's going to play zone. We're just working hard at practice to prepare for it."

    On this night, that meant continuing to hoist the open long-distance shots that came off good ball perimeter movement or penetration.

    "If they're wide open, you have to shoot them," coach John Calipari said. "I know people are going to look at me and say, 'Cal, you're losing your mind. Your former teams, none of them shot this many 3s.' If they're contested, they're bad shots. I think they were open."

    The Tigers went ahead to stay on Williams' stickback of his own missed tip for a 51-50 lead with 12 minutes left, and pushed the lead to 58-52 on a 3 from Darius Washington Jr. with 8:16 left.

    The Pirates answered on the next play, getting a 3 from Courtney Captain to cut the deficit to three. But the Pirates struggled getting open looks from there against the long and athletic Tigers defenders, failing to hit another shot until the final minute.

    Carney followed Captain's 3 with one on the next play to put the Tigers up 61-55 with 7:46 left.

    East Carolina got as close as 61-59 on two free throws from Corey Rouse (20 points, 12 rebounds) with 5:16 left, but Williams knocked down a 3 off penetration by Antonio Anderson on the next possession to make it 64-59.

    The Pirates had several chances afterward, but they missed five free throws in the second half. They also couldn't shake out of their shooting drought in time, going without a field goal until Rouse banked in a long 3-pointer to make it 73-67 with 26 seconds left.

    "There's no in-between -- you win or you lose," said Ricky Stokes, East Carolina's first-year coach. "But if we continue to have that effort, I think good things can happen for this team."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 77 67
    FG Made-Attempted 26-71 (.366) 22-59 (.373)
    3P Made-Attempted 10-35 (.286) 6-18 (.333)
    FT Made-Attempted 15-20 (.750) 17-25 (.680)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0/0) 20 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 10 8

    2005-06 Season

    » Jan 11, 2006 MEM 77, @ECU 67Recap