Tournament-MVP Jackson Lifts Memphis Past UTEP, 67-66, to Claim C-USA Crown
March 12, 2011
By: Preston McClellan
EL PASO, Texas - Joe Jackson stepped to the line with seven seconds left and earned his nickname "King of Memphis" by calmly sinking two free throws to lift Memphis past UTEP, 67-66, en route to the Tigers' fifth C-USA Championship crown.
In a game that Memphis never led until the last free throw by Jackson the Tigers battled back after being down 62-50 with 6:13 remaining. Christian Polk hit consecutive triples to extend the Miners' lead to 12 before an old-fashioned three-point play from Jackson sparked a 9-0 Tigers run to get them back in the game.
Gabriel McCuley converted a dunk for UTEP to extend the lead to 64-59 with 2:41 to play, but Jackson again answered with an and-one on the other end to close the gap to 64-62.
Julyan Stone missed the second of two free throws on the Miners' next possession, and Will Barton found Chris Crawford, who nailed a deep trifecta from the top of the key in transition to tie the game a 65. McCulley split a pair of free throws on the other end, and Memphis called timeout with 11.9 seconds left trailing 66-65.
Will Barton passed the ball into Jackson who immediately drove left on the 6-7 Stone and drew the foul before stepping to the line and sinking both free throws. UTEP had one more opportunity inbounding the ball from under its own basket with 2.5 seconds left, but Polk's attempt from long range clanked off the front of the rim, and the Tigers secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson, who was named MVP of the C-USA Tournament, finished the game with 17 points by making 8-of-10 from the free throw line. He also had seven assists and one steal.
Fellow Memphis-natives came up huge alongside Jackson, as Chris Crawford knocked down five three-pointers and scored 15 points and Tarik Black recorded his second career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Will Barton also finished in double figures for the Tigers with 11 points to go with seven rebounds.
Polk was the only UTEP player to finish in double figures with 27 points, making 11-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. His only two misses came on last-second shots at the end of each half.
Memphis-native Randy Culpepper, who scored 27 points in the Miners' semifinal victory over Tulsa, was limited to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. Jeremy Williams and Claude Britten each scored eight points in the loss for the Miners, which defeated Memphis 74-47 in El Paso on Feb. 26.
The Tigers, which found themselves down 9-0 to start the game and to start the second half, battled throughout, outrebounding UTEP and scoring 28 points in the paint. Memphis also had 16 second-chance points.
Memphis will now wait for the NCAA Selection Committee to announce the NCAA Tournament bracket tomorrow at 5 p.m. on CBS. Information for fans regarding NCAA Tournament tickets can be found here.