Memphis comes back to beat Tulane

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Geron Johnson and Tarik Black brushed aside their recent frustrations and led Memphis to its ninth straight win, a 71-60 Conference USA victory over Tulane on Tuesday night.

After failing to reach double figures in his previous four games, Johnson scored 18 points — his second-highest total of the season — and Black, benched in the first half for disciplinary reasons, came back in the second half to supply 10 points and a strong defensive presence in the middle.

Black helped the Tigers (15-3, 4-0) limit Tulane to 28.6 percent shooting (8 of 28) in the second half, when the Tigers outscored the Green Wave 41-24. Memphis also tied a season high with 11 blocked shots while defeating Tulane for the 21st consecutive time.

“We got back in the game through defense,” said Memphis coach Josh Pastner. “And then we won the game in the second half through defense against a good Tulane team.”

Black, a 6-foot-9 junior forward, played only four second-half minutes and scored just two points in Memphis’ previous game, a 60-50 win over Harvard on Saturday. He was held out of the first half against Tulane because of his “negative attitude” while on the bench in the second half against Harvard.

“Tarik is a great guy, a wonderful young man with a great spirit,” Pastner said. “These are college guys. There are going to be mistakes made. It was very minor.

“But he responded. He had a great attitude in the first half (on the bench). And in the second half he came out and did his job. He helped get us a ‘W’ by making some free throws and (doing) a good job defensively.”

The Tigers overcame a sluggish start in which they trailed by as many as 15 in the first half. Tulane (13-6, 1-3) shot 46.7 percent (14 of 30), made 4 of 8 3-pointers and outrebounded Memphis 17-11 for a 36-30 halftime advantage.

“I thought we were the more physical team early,” Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. “Toward the end, maybe we wore down a bit.”

Ricky Tarrant led Tulane with 16 points and Josh Davis scored 13 for the Green Wave.

Clinging to a three-point lead, 55-52, with 5 minutes left, the Tigers got back-to-back 3-pointers from Chris Crawford for a 61-54 lead with 3:58 remaining. A game-ending dunk by Johnson represented Memphis’ largest lead of the game.

“Chris hit some big, big 3s,” Pastner said. “Chris was playing at a very high level. Our team is much better when he is playing like that.”

Crawford finished with 14 points, six assists and no turnovers in 28 minutes off the bench.

The Tigers battled back from their six-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 46-all. Black ignited the charge with his defense and rebounding upon entering the game with 16:56 to go and Memphis trailing 41-35.

Memphis tied the game on a three-point play by guard Joe Jackson and took the lead, 48-46, on a short jumper in the lane by Black with 11:28 to go. It was the Tigers’ first lead of the game and they never trailed again.

“Chris has been struggling with his shot the past few games, but he hit two big shots,” said Jackson, who finished with 16 points. “And Tarik came in and basically took over the game in the second half.”

Finding success in the paint, Tulane scored the game’s first five points and built its lead to 15 points, using a 12-0 run to go ahead 32-17 with 7:15 left in the half.

“We didn’t have the energy we needed to have to start the game,” Pastner said. “They punched us in the mouth, but we answered the challenge and battled back. But they punched us in the mouth a few times (and) kicked our butt early.”

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