Thursday, February 27, 2003

Memphis 88, TCU 64

The Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A letdown was the last thing on the minds of the Memphis players. In their first game as a Top 25 team since last season, the 24th-ranked Tigers opened with a 9-0 run and led by double digits after the first eight minutes on their way to an 88-64 victory over Texas Christian on Wednesday night.

"We didn't want to worry about the national ranking," reserve guard John Grice said. "We wanted to come out and play a good game and work on the things we need to do. It's really important to come out and jump on a team."

The Tigers (19-5, 10-3 Conference USA) were led by the inside play of center Chris Massie, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds as Memphis remained atop the league's National Division.

"When Massie can score 24 points in 24 minutes and only take 12 shots to do it, we have our issues there," TCU coach Neil Dougherty said. "We can't do anything about him. We don't have anything, short of putting everybody around him."

Outside shooters complemented Massie's game, too. The Tigers were 11-of-29 from 3-point range. Billy Richmond, who hadn't hit a 3-pointer in his previous 18 attempts this season, connected on all four of his shots outside the arc to finish with 12 points.

"They can send me the bill for correcting shots," Dougherty said. "(Richmond) hits his first 3 of the year, and then he made all four of them. I feel like the shot doctor of the week."

Memphis coach John Calipari, who has often criticized Richmond's defense and hustle, was most impressed by a play in which the transfer from Vanderbilt hit the floor for a loose ball.

"The best thing, for me, Billy gets a standing ovation for playing hard and diving on the floor," Calipari said. "Do you understand that that encourages him to play hard and dive on the floor?

"Bottom line is, if Billy Richmond plays that way, we are real, real good. ... Billy Richmond can dominate a game on defense and offense. He can."

Antonio Burks had 13 points and 10 assists for Memphis, while Jeremy Hunt added 10, although he was 4-of-13 from the field.

Junior Blount and Corey Santee led TCU (8-18, 2-12) with 14 points each and Santee added seven assists. Bingo Merriex scored 13 for the Horned Frogs.

The Tigers led 49-25 at the half and built the lead to 30 in the second period.

"What you've got, basically, if you want to sum it up, is you've got a team that is trying to make a statement and get in the tournament and a (high) seed in the tournament, and our fortunes this year have been very rocky," Dougherty said. "We were way in over our heads."

TCU (8-18)-Brown 2-8 4-4 8, Valsin 3-4 0-1 6, Merriex 5-15 2-2 13, Santee 5-17 2-4 14, Blount 4-11 3-4 14, Smith 3-4 3-3 9, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Sloan 0-2 0-2 0, Markley 0-0 0-0 0, Chinweze 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 14-20 64.

MEMPHIS (19-5)-Carney 2-6 1-1 5, Erwin 1-1 1-1 3, Massie 10-12 4-6 24, Burks 5-6 3-4 13, Rice 2-7 0-0 6, Wade 1-3 0-0 2, Hunt 4-13 0-1 10, Richmond 4-6 0-0 12, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Grice 3-11 0-0 8, Barron 1-4 0-0 2, Root 1-1 0-0 3, Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Diarra 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 34-72 9-13 88.

Halftime-Memphis 49-25. 3-Point goals-TCU 6-24 (Blount 3-7, Santee 2-7, Merriex 1-9, Valsin 0-1), Memphis 11-29 (Richmond 4-4, Grice 2-6, Rice 2-6, Hunt 2-6, Root 1-1, Wade 0-2, Carney 0-4). Rebounds-TCU 39 (Sloan, Brown 7), Memphis 44 (Massie 11). A-10,000.

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