HOUSTON (AP) -- Memphis point guard Darius Washington, Jr. is
used to opposing fans teasing him for his tearful reaction to the
free throws he missed in last year's Conference USA championship.
On Saturday, Washington proved he can still make them when it
matters most.As hostile Rice fans chanted "Cry-baby! Cry-baby!" and waved
tissues, Washington sank two free throws with 25.4 seconds left to
help the third-ranked Tigers beat the Owls 84-79 for their 10th
consecutive win."You make those shots and the fans have no say-so," Washington
said. "And if there comes a point where I can do it, I'll do it. I
still want to take those."Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 21 points and Rodney Carney added
13 for the Tigers (21-2, 7-0), who struggled, but stayed unbeaten
in eight true road games."It was one of those crazy, crazy games," said Memphis coach
John Calipari. "We're lucky to get out of here alive."Morris Almond scored 30 and J.R. Harrison added 20 for the Owls
(9-11, 3-4), who have lost four of their last five.But coach Willis Wilson was much more encouraged than he was
after Rice's last game, a dismal 70-53 home loss to Tulane on Jan.
28."What we learned tonight was if we just do what we do, we can
play with anybody," Wilson said.The Tigers went 9-for-31 from 3-point range (29 percent) and
struggled most of the game with the Owls' sticky zone defense.
Memphis also committed 18 turnovers."If a team gets after us and becomes physical, that bothers
us," Calipari said. "That's one of those things we have to get
better at."Memphis missed 11 of its first 18 shots and trailed 17-15 after
Almond's free throws with 12:03 left in the opening half. Almond
went 11-for-13 from the line in the game."I wanted to come out with a strong, concentrated effort,"
said Almond, who scored only seven points in the Tulane loss.
"It's easy to come with high intensity when you're playing the No.
3 team in the nation."Later in the first half, Washington missed a dunk, drawing jeers
from the small, rowdy crowd. The students were on Washington before
the game even started, waving tissues to remind him of his public
breakdown at the end of last year's C-USA championship.Washington missed 2 of 3 free throws with no time left and the
Tigers lost to Louisville 75-74. Washington collapsed to the court
in tears after his misses."Fans are going to be fans," Washington said. "When I'm on
the court, I just tune them out and concentrate on the coaches and
my teammates. I don't let them get to me."While the fans in the 5,000-seat arena might not have bothered
the Tigers, the Owls certainly did.The Tigers' first-half frustrations spilled over to Calipari,
who got a technical for protesting a no-call on an apparent moving
screen. Almond sank the resulting free throws, giving Rice a 31-30
lead with 5:47 left before the break.Memphis closed the half with an 11-6 burst as the Owls committed
three unforced turnovers during the run.Joey Dorsey dunked 45 seconds into the second half to start a
12-5 Memphis spurt. The Tigers scored on their first five
second-half possessions and went up 58-46 -- their first
double-digit lead -- after Douglas-Roberts' 3-pointer from the wing
with 16:45 left.The lead bulged to 15 before the Owls mounted one final surge.
Dunks by Harrison and Patrick Britton started a 16-4 spurt and
Harrison's turnaround with 2:04 left cut the Tigers' lead to 78-75."I got a little frustrated at times because I thought there
were chances for us to break open the game," Calipari said. "I'll
probably watch the tape and say it was as much Rice as it was our
guys."Memphis went the final eight minutes without a field goal,
missing open shots and coughing up careless turnovers. The Tigers
only hung onto their lead by going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line
during Rice's charge.Shawne Williams sank two free throws with 1:51 left to put the
Tigers up 80-75 and neither team scored on tense possessions over
the next minute.Almond swished a jumper from the free-throw line with 32.9
seconds left to keep the Owls within three.Washington then went to the line for the clinching shots. Shawne
Williams tacked on two more free throws with 11 seconds left before
Harrison scored a meaningless basket at the end.The Tigers finished 23-for-26 from the free-throw line.Memphis and Rice were playing for just the third time. The
Tigers won the previous two meetings, both in the 1960s.