Glendale, Ariz. A career night by J.T. Tiller put Missouri one win away from its first trip to the Final Four. Memphis’ 27-game winning streak, meanwhile, is history.
Tiller scored a career-high 23 points — 15 more than his season average — and Missouri held off Memphis’ frantic rally for a 102-91 victory Thursday night in the semifinals of the West Regional.
Third-seeded Missouri led by 24 points four minutes into the second half, then saw Memphis close within six with 2:14 to play. Mizzou put it away from the foul line.
Missouri (31-6) advanced to play top-seeded Connecticut for the West title on Saturday.
“We came out and kind of took the fight to Memphis early on, and before you know it, our guys had a little confidence,” Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.
Dynamic point guard Tyreke Evans scored 33 for second-seeded Memphis (33-4). Memphis shot only 18-for-32 from the foul line — last year, a poor showing at the foul line cost them dearly in an overtime championship game loss to Kansas.
Missouri freshman Marcus Denman had the game’s most jaw-dropping basket, a swish from three-quarters court at the halftime buzzer for a 13-point lead.
Tiller, the co-defensive player of the year in the Big 12, made 10-of-16 shots and had three steals. All five Missouri starters reached double figures. DeMarre Carroll scored 17 and Leo Lyons had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Lyons was 11-for-18 from the foul line but made four straight in the final 11⁄2 minutes. In all, a whopping 77 free throws were taken, with Missouri making 30 of 45.
Robert Dozier had 19 points and 16 rebounds in Memphis’ first loss since a Dec. 20 setback against Syracuse. Antonio Anderson scored 18 in his last game for Memphis.
Missouri is among the last eight teams left in the NCAA Tournament in just its third season under Anderson, a Nolan Richardson disciple who coached the last Conference USA team to beat John Calipari’s Memphis team — that was for UAB 62 games ago.
This was Tigers vs. Tigers in a matchup not only of nicknames but in-your-face, high-energy styles.
“We kind of got punched in the mouth right from the beginning of the game,” Calipari said. “They broke us down defensively like we break people down. They beat us at our own game.”