North Florida falls 81-66 to No. 17 Memphis
Memphis, Tenn. -- North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll was pleased that his team fought back when it trailed No. 17 Memphis by a large margin.
There's no way he was looking for a moral victory. He did see some bright spots, however, after losing 81-66 to the Tigers on Monday night.
"I learned one thing, that we have enough fight in us to come out in the second half and not falter," Driscoll said. "We're not a moral victory team. We don't believe in them, and I don't coach them."
North Florida stayed with the Tigers until about the midway point of the first half when Memphis (1-0) put together a rally that had the Ospreys on their heels the rest of the game. Smith, who had 22 points in North Florida's season-opening win over Edward Waters, struggled after helping build the early lead.
"One of the things is they went to another level defensively on him," Driscoll said. "We weren't able to get the ball to him as easily as we did (early). In the second half, we found him, and he actually missed some wide open ones. He's a great, great, great shooter. ... He makes difficult shots. He almost is a better shooter when he's guarded than when he's not guarded."
Tarik Black had 18 points and seven rebounds, and guard Joe Jackson added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for Memphis. Tigers reserve guard Antonio Barton finished with 11 points, awakening the Memphis from a sluggish start.
Barton's performance not only helped overcome an early North Florida lead, but it was a bit of redemption. He was in coach Josh Pastner's doghouse after the two had a sideline disagreement during an exhibition game last week.
"I'm just trying to play toward the system and fit back in," Barton said. "Last week, I let my teammates down. I'm just happy they accepted me back and found me on a couple of passes, a couple of shots. I was just coming in trying to be that energy as I always have."
Driscoll saw positive points, but his team came in hoping for a victory
"We don't play these money games just to play for money," Driscoll said. "We come to play to win, and we were prepared to do what we had to do. Obviously, our guys fought."
Memphis overcame the sketchy start, eventually pulling away in the middle stages of the first half and coasting through the second half.
The Tigers led by as many as 32 points in the second half. The Ospreys closed the deficit late as the Tigers went deep into their bench to finish the game.
North Florida shot 39 percent overall, including 50 percent in the second half. Smith connected early to build the lead, but was ineffective in the second half.
"He is a crazy shooter," Black said of Smith. "Like something I really haven't seen lately, since I have been in college. On the film, he knocks down shots that I have never seen anybody else make. So when he starts shooting, I'm thinking: `Oh man, this guy is getting started like we saw on that film.' So we had to shut that down early."
Memphis shot 42 percent from the field.
The Tigers led 47-25 at halftime behind 11 points from Barton and 10 from Black.
Smith made three 3-pointers as North Florida took its early 20-17 lead. But Barton scored 10 of the Tigers' next 12 points, which led to a 19-0 Memphis run, part of a half-closing 30-5 spurt.
"The problem is, it's a 40-minute game," Driscoll said. "It was 20-17 and they go on a 19-0 run. ... The game was lost at that particular point."
The Tigers stretched the lead with a 19-9 run to open the second half, building its biggest lead at 66-34 with just under 14 minutes left.
Driscoll was impressed that his team didn't quit despite the deficit. In a timeout, he told his team the deficit could keep building or they could fight back. The Ospreys kept whittling away, eventually cutting the Tigers' lead to the final 15-point margin.
"In the last 15 minutes, we played sloppy and lackadaisical, which is not acceptable," Pastner said. "That's just something that we have to be better about. We have to be able to put teams away."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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