MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Even in blowout games, Memphis doesn't let up on defense.
Shawn Taggart scored 19 points and Doneal Mack added 15 points as the fifth-ranked Tigers cruised to a 90-47 victory over SMU on Wednesday night.
Memphis held the Mustangs to 14 points in the second half as SMU was 6-for-30 from the field (20 percent) after the break. That defensive intensity came after Memphis led by 19 at halftime.
"We've got a chip on our shoulder," Taggart said of the defensive attitude. "A lot of people are saying that UConn has a better defense. That Pittsburgh has a better defense. North Carolina.
"But in the country, right now, I don't see anybody playing better than us defensively."
Robert Dozier had 14 points, and Tyreke Evans and Antonio Anderson each scored 13 for the Tigers (23-3, 11-0 Conference USA), who won their 17th straight. Memphis also extended its winning streak in the conference to 53 games, including the postseason.
For seniors Anderson, Dozier and Chance McGrady, the victory was their 127th at Memphis, a school record.
Paul McCoy led SMU (7-17, 1-10) with 17 points, while Derek Williams added 11.
Memphis, which entered the game holding opponents to an average of 37.6 percent shooting from the field, limited SMU to 31 percent (17-for-55). The Mustangs were hitting 75 percent (6-of-8) from 3-point range at the break, but missed all eight of their long-range shots in the second half.
Memphis, ranked 10th in the conference in free-throw shooting, finished 36-for-40 (90 percent) from the line. Anderson hit all nine of his free throws, and Taggart missed only one of his 10 shots from the line.
"We're very comfortable at the line now," Taggart said. "We can hit free throws."
SMU was able to stay in the game early, even leading after hitting its first four shots from 3-point range. The Mustangs still were trailing by only 18-16 as they hit half of their first 12 shots.
But Memphis, which forced SMU turnovers with pressure defense, used a 12-2 run to grab its first double-digit lead before Mustangs coach Matt Doherty called timeout in hopes of curbing the momentum. At that point, SMU already had committed 13 turnovers. The Mustangs finished with 22 miscues.
"They are a very good team, and they can make a lot of people look bad," Doherty said of Memphis. "And, we were able to fight that for a while, but the last 5 or 6 minutes of the first half, they just took it to another level."
SMU had pulled to 36-31 when McCoy hit a 3.
But the Mustangs still could not take care of the basketball, finishing the half with 16 turnovers. That helped Memphis close the half on a 16-2 run, including 10 straight in one stretch, and the Tigers led 52-33 at halftime.
"Really, defensively, we're getting better," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "For 10 minutes, they were right there hanging around. They shot 45 percent for the first half. For the game they shot (31) percent because, again, it's hard to do it for 30 or 40 minutes against us."
The Tigers continued to extend the lead as the second half opened, scoring the first seven points to build the advantage to 26 points. Memphis eventually led by 43 in the final minute.
The game was so far out of reach that the Tigers were able to work on their zone defense for extended minutes in the second half.
"We just stick with the game plan," Anderson said. "(Calipari) tells us what they like to run, and we just try to shut it down."
Doherty wasn't around to see the end, ejected for arguing with officials with 47.7 seconds left.
"I don't think when you say one thing you should get two technical fouls," Doherty said. "That's something new to me. I'm a little disappointed."
Actually, the officials said Doherty's infraction was a flagrant technical, and the stat sheet only showed one technical against the Mustangs.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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