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SLU gets homestanding Bearcats next

3/12/2004

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ever so slowly, No. 23 Memphis got its heart
broken again.

Izik Ohanon led a late 16-2 run that sent Saint Louis to a 72-61
victory over the stunned Tigers in the Conference USA tournament
quarterfinals on Thursday night.

Saint Louis (18-11) will face Cincinnati in the semifinals,
hoping its slog-it-out pace lulls another opponent and takes the
Bearcats' crowd out of game. Cincinnati won the regular-season
meeting by 25 points on Feb. 25.

"Quite frankly, that night they were men and we were boys,"
coach Brad Soderberg said. "They just physically hammered us. We
could lose tomorrow -- that would be no surprise -- but it won't be
because we didn't battle."

The Tigers (21-7) put up little fight down the stretch. They had
plenty of trouble with the Billikens' slow pace, getting out of
sync at the outset and falling apart at the end. Ohanon had eight
points in the decisive spurt.

"We pride ourselves on defense all season, and we had multiple
breakdowns all night," Memphis forward Duane Erwin said. "It was
just a fight from 0-0 to stay in it."

It marked the end to a numbing six-day stretch for the Tigers,
who went into the weekend with a chance to win the conference's
regular-season title outright.

Memphis lost to Cincinnati on a last-second shot Saturday,
forging a five-way tie for the title. The Tigers then got
eliminated from the tournament in their first game.

Instead of heading into the NCAA tournament on a roll, the
Tigers will watch the selections on Sunday wondering how low
they'll go.

"We've got a chance to redeem ourselves," forward Rodney
Carney said. "Hopefully we'll get together and do that."

Reggie Bryant led Saint Louis with 18 points, and Ohanon had 14.

Saint Louis likes a slow pace, and managed to impose it on
Memphis from the outset. Opponents average only 59.2 points against
the Billikens, who drain the clock down before shooting and get
back on defense to stop fast breaks.

Memphis didn't handle it well at all.

Point guard Antonio Burks, the conference's player of the year,
went 2-for-11 from the field for a season-low six points. He had 22
in Memphis' nine-point victory over Saint Louis on Feb. 7.

"The first time we played them, I didn't attack him and make
him feel pressure," said Josh Fisher, who guarded him in both
games. "I played too far off him, and he hit a couple of shots
early and just got going. I went out tonight and challenged him,
and his shot wasn't falling as usual."

He wasn't the only one to struggle. Freshman forward Sean Banks,
who had averaged 25.5 points in the last six games, was only
5-of-15 for 17 points.

Saint Louis pulled out to a 26-12 lead by patiently working for
open shots and hitting 10 of its first 14. By contrast, Memphis
tried to force matters and wound up making them worse.

Memphis' Rodney Carney tried to make an emphatic, flying dunk to
break the spell, but wound up smacking the ball off the back of the
rim.

The Tigers got back into it by energizing their defense and
forcing five turnovers in a 10-point run that cut it to 26-22, but
Memphis could never get control.

No matter what it tried, Memphis couldn't speed up the pace or
take the lead. Carney hit a pair of 3s and Banks made a 15-foot
jumper in a 10-3 spurt that tied it at 45 with 8:16 to go, the
first tie since early in the game.

Saint Louis immediately put together the decisive run behind
Ohanon, who had a jumper, a dunk, a layup and two free throws as
Saint Louis pulled ahead 61-47.

Memphis never got closer than nine points the rest of the way,
and turned the ball over on three straight possessions in the last
two minutes to end any hopes of a comeback.