March 11, 2011 8:38:00 AM
EL PASO, Texas -- Joe Jackson scored 15 points and hit two free throws that helped seal Memphis'' 66-63 victory against Southern Mississippi in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA tournament Thursday.
Memphis was threatened by Southern Miss'' late-game push. The Golden Eagles trailed 60-59 with 36 seconds left, but the Tigers pushed the lead back to five points thanks to a pair of Will Barton free throws and a slam dunk from Jackson.
Memphis led 64-59 before Ahyaro Phillips scored twice for Southern Miss to cut it to 64-63 with 12 seconds left. Then Jackson hit his free throws.
"That was a good basketball game," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "Southern Mississippi is a good basketball team."
The Tigers (23-9) had four players in double digits, as Jackson was joined by Antonio Barton with 12 points and Charles Carmouche and Will Barton with 10 each. But it was the defensive stops at the end of the game that made the difference for the Tigers.
"We made big stops, and Will Barton and Joe Jackson stepped up and made free throws," Pastner said. "Defensively (Jackson) did big things and hit those free throws down the stretch."
Southern Mississippi did not go easily. The Golden Eagles'' defensive pressure increased as they held Memphis without a basket for eight minutes stretching from late in the first half to early in the second. Memphis was held to 32 percent shooting in the first half.
The fifth-seeded Golden Eagles (22-9) stayed in the game thanks to R.L. Horton, who had 17 points. D.J. Newbill scored 14 and Gary Flowers 12.
Southern Miss started the game poorly by allowing Memphis to take a 14-point lead in the first half. It was a deficit that proved difficult to overcome.
"We had a game plan that we thought was the right way to play them, and unfortunately we didnt follow directions and dug a big hole," Golden Eagles coach Larry Eustachy said. "Our guys fought back as they always do, but we came up a bit short."
Fourth-seeded Memphis will face eighth-seeded East Carolina (18-14) in the semifinals today.