Saturday , Mar , 11 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

C-USA title on the line as Tigers host Blazers

=== C-USA title on the line as Tigers host Blazers ===

(Sports Network) – The fifth-ranked and top-seeded Memphis Tigers try to
avenge their only league loss of the season today, when they host the
24th-ranked and seconded-seeded UAB Blazers in the championship game of
the Conference USA Tournament from FedExForum. The winner of today’s bout
will receive and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are in
the midst of one of their best seasons in school history, which already
includes a C-USA regular season championship (13-1). Memphis began postseason
play with a 78-56 victory over eighth-seeded Tulane in the quarterfinals
before defeating fourth-seeded Houston, 68-54, in the semifinals on
Friday. With the wins, the Tigers improved to 18-1 at home and to 8-10
all-time in the C-USA Tournament, where they are looking to avenge a loss
in last year’s championship game. The Tigers, whose 29 wins are two shy
of the school record of 31 set by the 1984-85 team, are gunning for
their first conference tournament title since winning the Metro Conference
tourney in 1987.

As for UAB, its enters today’s game on a major roll, as it has posted seven
straight wins, including an 69-56 triumph over 10th-seeded SMU in the
quarterfinals and a 63-60 victory over second-seeded Texas-El Paso in the
semifinals on Friday. With the postseason wins, the Blazers improved to 24-5
overall and 12-10 all-time in this event. UAB, much like Memphis, have never
won this tournament, although it did make an appearance in the finals in
2003, losing to Louisville. The Blazers handed Memphis its only league loss
during the regular season, posting an 80-74 victory on March 2nd. The
Tigers however, won the first meeting at home, 73-66, and own a 21-10
advantage in the all-time series between the two schools.

UAB shot a sizzling 57.9 percent from the field and knocked down 7-of-17 three
pointers, as it posted a three-point win over UTEP in the semifinals on
Friday. Marvett McDonald led the Blazers with 15 points and four rebounds,
while Carldell Johnson added 12 points and six assists.

On the year, McDonald is the only player on the roster currently averaging
in double-figure points with 15.3 ppg. He also has 43 steals to his
credit and is shooting 37.1 percent from behind the arc. Johnson chips
in with 7.6 ppg and has been responsible for running the offense with a
team-high 6.3 apg to his credit. Johnson is also one of the premier defenders
in the league and that is evident by his 79 steals. As a team, UAB is
averaging a solid 75.7 ppg behind 46.0 percent shooting from the floor this
season. The Blazers are also forcing a league-best 21.4 turnovers per game,
which has helped compensate for their poor play on the boards, where they are
being outrebounded by 8.4 rpg.

Shawne Williams showed why he deserved the C-USA Freshman of the Year award,
as he turned in 23 points, eight rebounds and four steals in leading Memphis
to a 14-point win over Houston in the semifinals on Friday. Rodney Carney, the
C-USA Player of the Year, added 17 points for the Tigers, who shot 44.4
percent from the floor. The team also knocked down 6-of-14 three pointers, in
addition to dominating the boards 45-29.

Winning the battle on the boards in nothing new for Memphis, which is
outrebounding its opponents by a league-high 7.3 rpg this season. The
Tigers are also the top scoring team in the conference, averaging a
healthy 81.7 ppg on 45.1 percent shooting from the field. Carney leads the
club in scoring with 17.8 ppg and is also pulling down 4.3 rpg and shooting
40.4 percent from long distance. Darius Washington Jr. adds 13.7 ppg for
the Tigers and has a lot to prove today, as it was his missed free throws
in the closing moments of last year’s 75-74 loss to Louisville in the
C-USA Tournament championship game that cost Memphis a spot in the NCAA
Tournament. Williams rounds out the double-figure scorers with 13.3 ppg to
go along with 6.3 rpg and 46 steals.