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Golden Eagles' Strong Defense Falls Short of Stopping No. 4 Memphis

Courtney Beasley and Cory Smith try to stop Memphis forward Shawn Taggart from scoring in the first half. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Courtney Beasley and Cory Smith try to stop Memphis forward Shawn Taggart from scoring in the first half. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Feb. 28, 2009

Box Score |  AP Gallery 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Robert Dozier had 18 points and seven rebounds, and the Tigers extended the nation's longest winning streak to 20 games with a 58-42 victory over the Golden Eagles on Saturday.

The win came after a hard-fought 71-60 victory at UAB on Thursday night. The Tigers didn't arrive back in Memphis until past midnight on Friday morning, facing a noon game Saturday.

"Guys are tired," Dozier said. "You could see it in their faces. You could (sense) it in the mood in the locker room. We pushed through it, and we played great enough defense to get the W. That's all the matters."

Dozier was 6-of-8 from the field and made both of his 3-point attempts as Memphis (26-3, 14-0 Conference USA) also extended its conference winning streak to 56 games, including the postseason.

Tyreke Evans had 14 points for Memphis, and Antonio Anderson finished with 10.

Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy, in his fifth year, has seen plenty of good Memphis teams, including last year's that made a run to the national championship game. He thinks this year's version may be the best.

"This team's just plays and nothing rattles them," Eustachy said of the Tigers performance. "This team is every bit as good and deserving of a No. 1 seed (as last year's team).

"I think it is as together a team with talent and a great coach as I've seen in a long time."

Jeremy Wise and R.L. Horton led Southern Mississippi (14-14, 4-10) with 14 points each.

Courtney Beasley, the Golden Eagles' second-leading scorer at 14.8 points per game, had two points, missing his first 10 shots. Southern Miss shot 29 percent.

Beasley's only basket came on a goaltending call late in the second half.

"The way they play, they are hard to score against," Eustachy said.

The Tigers had a bit of extra motivation because of comments that came out of Hattiesburg in the days prior to the game. The Golden Eagles lost to UAB 86-56 last Saturday, and several Southern Mississippi players, including Beasley, had said they thought UAB was a better team.

Memphis players were aware of the comments, and made sure they jumped out early.

Memphis was aggressive on defense, causing the Golden Eagles to take difficult shots. Then things got worse as the Tigers went to their zone defense with 6-foot-8 freshman Wesley Witherspoon at the top.

The Golden Eagles missed their next six shots, including a pair of attempts as the shot clock neared expiring, and committed a trio of turnovers. Southern Miss went almost 10 minutes without scoring.

That helped Memphis build a 23-7 lead.

The Tigers would hold Southern Mississippi to 19 percent shooting in the first half (5-of-26) and outrebound the Golden Eagles 25-14, as Memphis carried a 32-14 lead into the break.

No one was in double figures for either team. Evans had nine points, and Shawn Taggart made all four of his shots for eight points for Memphis.

The Golden Eagles were able to shoot 40 percent in the half, and outscore Memphis 28-26.

"The first half we went out there and played great defense and shut them down," Taggart said. "We got offensive rebounds, tip backs. We got steals. ... The second half, they started making shots. You're not going to stop a team all day."

As for the Golden Eagles, only two players scored - Horton with eight and Wise with six- in the first half. The other six Southern Missplayers who played in the first half were a combined 0-for-16.

Things got a little sloppy for Memphis to open the second half. The Tigers missed all but one of their first four shots after intermission and committed five turnovers in the first four minutes.

The Tigers quickly recovered and stretched the lead to 20. Southern Miss never got the deficit under double digits the rest of the way.

And most of the Tigers were just happy that the game was over after having such a quick turnaround from the UAB victory.

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