MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tennessee State was making 3-pointers throughout the game. Antonio Barton finally provided an answer in the second half and Memphis (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) was able to come up with the win.
Barton scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, including two key free throws with 17 seconds left, as Memphis escaped 50 percent 3-point shooting by Tennessee State in a 91-86 victory Sunday.
"Antonio Barton saved us," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "What other way can you say it? He actually saved us. He was 5 of 6 from [3-point range] and hit big free throws down the stretch."
Tennessee State (6-8), which was trying to record its first victory over a ranked team in school history, put a scare into Memphis in the matchup of teams with Tigers for a nickname. Tennessee State, which led much of the way, was 12 of 24 from outside the arc.
"They shot 50 percent from the 3-point line," Black said. "That's crazy for a team to shoot that well from the 3-point line. You've just got to close out, and it's something we have to work on, just rotating and getting to the shooters."
Kenny Moore led Tennessee State with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including missing only one of his six 3-point attempts. Wil Peters finished with 17 points and seven assists, while Robert Covington had 16 points.
It was a wild game from the barrage of 3-pointers, to a last-minute argument involving both teams to Memphis guard Joe Jackson (6 points, 8 assists) missing a layup with 35 seconds left when he could have run off some clock with the lead.
Antonio Barton's free throws with 17.2 seconds left, followed by a dunk from his brother Will with 4 seconds remaining, finally gave Memphis the victory.
"We couldn't quite take care of them on the inside, from a defensive perspective," Tennessee State coach John Cooper said. "Tarik Black just gave us problems the whole game. Every time they needed a bucket, they were able to get something from him."
With just under a minute to play and Memphis leading 85-81 there was a delay as officials reviewed what happened in a skirmish under the Memphis basket. Antonio Barton was on a breakaway when he was fouled by Peters and the teams got together with some mouthing and pushing.
Black got off the bench and headed to the court, leading to his ejection, and there were double-technicals called on Will Barton and Tennessee State's Michael Green. Even a Memphis fan was ejected for yelling at the officials.
Memphis officials said since Black was pulled back by assistant coach Willis Wilson before entering the fray, he will be eligible for Memphis' game Wednesday at Tennessee.
"It was an emotional reaction," Black said. "You want to go out there and split [everybody] up so nobody gets suspended. In the end, I almost got suspended, so I learned my lesson."
When the dust settled, Antonio Barton hit both free throws associated with the initial foul by Peters to give Memphis an 87-81 lead.
Antonio Barton hit all five of his 3-pointers in the second half to offset Tennessee State's accuracy.
Both benches even got technicals early in the second half, and Pastner, who prides himself on not cursing, emphasized that his was for leaving the coaching box, and not anything he said.
"Wow, that was a shocker," Black said of his coach's offense. "I was like: 'Coach Pastner?' Man, that's the last coach in America I thought would get a 'T.' "
The game was tied at 43 at halftime as Tennessee State hit its first five 3s, finishing the half 7 of 12.
Tennessee State went ahead by as many as eight points as Covington and Peters scored 10 apiece before the break.
"That's a good shooting team," Antonio Barton said. "We had hands up, two hands up, and they were still knocking them down."
As Memphis chipped away at the Tennessee State lead in the second half, it was Antonio Barton at the controls. In one stretch, he connected on a trio of 3-pointers to pull Memphis close.
"The first half, I missed my first shot, and normally somebody would get down on themselves," he said. "In the second half, I told myself: 'I'm not going to miss a shot.' So I was coming out shooting, and I was hitting."
Tennessee State still led 73-68 with 7 minutes left, but Memphis scored six straight points, capped by Barton's 3-pointer at the top of the key to take the lead with 5:02 left.
The teams exchanged leads and were still tied at 79 with 3:02 left, but another 3 by Antonio Barton gave Memphis the lead for good with 2:33 remaining.
"I thought we gave the type of effort that was necessary to come down and win," Cooper said. "We didn't close it out.
"We were right there, though."