HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP)—After watching Chris Douglas-Roberts hobble around on a sprained ankle in the first half Saturday night, his Memphis teammates asked him to ignore the pain and take over the game.
He answered the plea, scoring 23 points, including nine during a decisive 12-3 run, and No. 20 Memphis beat Southern Miss 75-62.
“They told me in the huddle they needed me to score,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I was too busy hopping on my ankle earlier in the game. I was thinking about it too much. And in the second half when we needed points, I just got ‘em.”
The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard used his size advantage to score consecutive baskets twice in the second half to end quick-strike spurts by their Conference USA foe and help the Tigers (13-3, 3-0 C-USA) win their fifth straight.
Memphis, hitting 60 percent of its free throws entering the game, needed the extra hustle after missing 10 of 22 from the line in a spotty first half. Douglas-Roberts made 14-of-17 in the game and the team rallied around him to make 21-of-24 in the second half.
The number of free throws Memphis received was a constant issue for Southern Miss (11-4, 1-1), and coach Larry Eustachy was ejected after receiving a second technical for arguing foul calls. Eustachy was kicked out with 2:31 remaining after going face-to-face with official Larry Rose and screaming him near midcourt.
Eustachy took the blame for the loss rather than pointing a finger at the officials. Southern Miss entered the game with a size disadvantage at every position and featured three freshmen in its starting lineup.
“We probably shouldn’t be able to, but I was hoping to get the team to the point this time of year where we could seize an opportunity like this,” Eustachy said.
“We’re just not quite there yet, and I’m disappointed from my end.”
Southern Miss put itself in position to pull away in the second half, but faltered when key plays were needed.
Craig Craft led the Golden Eagles with 21 points, and Jeremy Wise added 13, including two key 3-pointers in the second half that helped Southern Miss wipe away Memphis leads.
Memphis coach John Calipari was impressed with the young Southern Miss backcourt, which also includes sophomore Courtney Beasley.
“Their guards didn’t seem to be fazed, which is amazing to me,” he said. “I mean a freshman and a sophomore, and then Craft came in and just, you know. They were good.”
The Tigers held the Golden Eagles without a field goal over the final 5:59 of the first half to take a 31-26 halftime lead.
Memphis trailed 21-20 with 6:29 remaining in the first half, but outscored Southern Miss 10-4 in the waning minutes and led 28-22 with 2:36 left.
Memphis’ advantage evaporated immediately in the second half. Wise hit a 3-pointer to tie it 31-31 just 1:03 into the period. Douglas-Roberts, however, answered with six straight points during a 9-0 run that put the Tigers up 40-32 with 15:39 remaining.
Southern Miss put together another 12-0 run that began with back-to-back 3-pointers from Wise and Craft. Two possessions later, the Golden Eagles took their biggest lead of the game when Jarvis Hill hit a 16-foot jumper from near the top of the key to make it 50-45.
The first technical on Eustachy and five straight points from Douglas-Roberts helped put the Tigers back in front.
Douglas-Roberts’ 3-pointer put Memphis ahead 55-54 with 9:18 left, and the Golden Eagles threatened several times but were unable to regain the lead.
Memphis’ size was a key advantage. Joey Dorsey, who used his 260-pound frame to bull his way to 14 points, 11 rebounds and six of his team’s eight blocks, was a key reason the Tigers pulled away late.
“Here’s what happened: Joey Dorsey was a man,” Calipari said.
“And then when the game was up and down and we couldn’t score, Chris Douglas is scoring, getting free throws and making plays.”