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Kemp key as Memphis runs over Tulsa

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Memphis Tigers went to work early to get rid of the bitter taste from the end of their perfect season.

Willie Kemp scored 14 points and keyed a first-half rally, leading the Tigers (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) to an 82-67 victory over Tulsa on Wednesday night in their first game since their only loss of the season.

It was a successful rebound from losing its No. 1 ranking to Tennessee 66-62 on Saturday night. And the Tigers made sure they jumped out early against the Golden Hurricane.

"I feel like we are a good team, a championship team," said reserve Shawn Taggart, who had 12 points. "Every championship team, when they take a loss, they want to come out and prove a point and play hard. I feel like our bench showed we can score and we can produce on defense."

The victory assured Memphis (27-1, 13-0 Conference USA) at least a share of the conference regular-season title with three games to play. It marks the third straight year the Tigers have held at least a share of the C-USA crown.

Kemp was 5-of-10 from the field, including 4-for-7 outside the 3-point arc, as five Tigers scored in double figures.

"It helps our inside game a lot," Kemp said of his outside production. "If I'm making that shot, our big men are going to have a good game."

Doneal Mack matched Taggart's 12 points, while Robert Dozier added 11 points and eight rebounds. Antonio Anderson finished with 10 points, all in the first half as Memphis built a 43-19 lead at intermission.

Memphis coach John Calipari acknowledged some concerns entering the game, given the packed house for last Saturday's loss to the Volunteers, the emotion of the cross-state rivalry and the disappointment of the Tigers losing for the first time.

"I was really, really pleased," Calipari said of Wednesday's victory. "To come off the game and the emotion that we came out of, and to hold [Tulsa to 19] points in the first half was tremendous. Of those, they got five in the first minute.

"It's good to win just to get that other thing out of your system."

The Memphis reserves outscored Tulsa's 43-11 in the game, led by Kemp and Taggart.

"Taggart continues to play really well against us," Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik said. "He really does. He hurts us, and he scores on us."

Ray Reese led the Golden Hurricane (15-11, 6-7) with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ben Uzoh finished with 17 points and Calvin Walls added 10.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Tulsa.

The Tigers shot well and protected the ball while maintaining at least a 20-point lead through much of the second half.

But Tulsa put together nine straight points late to at least make the score interesting. The Golden Hurricane were too far behind to catch up, though, never cutting the Memphis lead under 13 points.

Tulsa was the unfortunate team in front of a refocused Memphis, and the Golden Hurricane were stymied by a Tigers defense that held them to 44 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers.

Meanwhile, Memphis shot 48 percent on the night, but was 13-of-25 from 3-point range.

"Not many people are going to beat them when they shoot it as well as they did from the 3," Wojcik said. "You've got to give up something against them ... so we decided to give up the 3-ball."

Memphis, which was held to a season-low point total in a 56-41 victory at Tulsa on Jan. 23, almost covered that in the first half thanks to long-range shooting and the scoring by reserves led by Kemp.

Memphis used a 16-0 run in the half to erase an early Tulsa advantage. Kemp keyed the rally, hitting a trio of consecutive 3-pointers in the spurt, the bulk of his 11 points in the half.

Unlike the Tennessee game when the Tigers couldn't maintain an early pace from outside the arc, Memphis was much better in the first half. It shot 56 percent on 9-of-16 in the half, and continued to score from outside after the break.

Tulsa, meanwhile, struggled from the field, hitting 35 percent in the half and compounded its problems with 10 turnovers.

"We always have trouble scoring in here, and we shoot 44 [percent] from the field, and 39 [percent] from 3," Wojcik said. "Scored 67 points after a dismal first half. We're going to build on this."

Meanwhile, Memphis players said it's time to put the Tennessee loss out of their minds, even though, for now, it is the only blemish on what could have been a run to perfection.

"We just needed to play another game and get it off our chests," Dozier said. "It's behind us now. You can't worry about it. It's one game we lost. There's a bigger tournament at the end of the season."

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