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Memphis downs Eagles

By By Austin Bishop/EMG regional sports director
Jan. 19, 2002
HATTIESBURG. For the first 20 minutes of the University of Memphis' 73-64 win over Southern Mississippi on Friday night, Dajuan Wagner looked like just another confused freshman.
But in the second half he looked like just what he is one of the nation's most prized recruits as he poured in 23 of his 28 points to help the Tigers overcome a 26-22 halftime deficit and move to 15-4 overall and 5-0 in Conference USA play.
That he did.
Wagner was 7-of-11 from the floor in the second half, including three-of-four from behind the three-point arc.
USM senior forward Elvin Mims who led all scorers with 29 points, said he knew that Wagner was going to be harder to handle in the second half.
The opening minutes of the game looked more like a soccer match than an NCAA Division I basketball game.
The teams combined to miss their first 10 shots and commit five turnovers in the first four-plus minutes of play, before Memphis finally got on the board on a bucket by Earl Barron with 15:40 left in the half.
The Tigers, now 15-4 on the year, looked as if they were going to take control of the game, building a 17-12 lead on two free throws by Wagner with 9:50 left in the first half, before USM began to work itself back into the ballgame.
The Golden Eagles took the lead at 21-20 on a bucket by Clement Carter with 1:41 to go in the half.
With the game tied at 22-22, Mims canned a 22-footer with a defender in his face with 28 seconds left to put the Golden Eagles up by three, then later hit one of two free throws to give USM a 26-22 halftime lead.
Despite struggling in the first 20 minutes, Wagner came back in the second half to hit a three-pointer with 17:29 left in the game to put Memphis up 31-28, its first lead of the second half.
Mims knocked down an eight-footer off the baseline with just over 15 minutes to go to help USM regain the lead at 34-33, before Wagner came back down on the other in and drilled his second three-pointer of the second half to put the Tigers up 36-34.
Senior point guard Brad Richardson then came up with a steal and hit a spinning layup in traffic on the fast break to tie the game, before Mims knocked down two free throws to put USM up by two.
The pace of the game which saw only 48 points scored in the first half began to pick up at the 12-minute more, but the game also began to get sloppy, with both teams blowing opportunities to pick up easy baskets due to turnovers.
After Richardson hit three free throws to put USM up 41-38, Wagner canned a three-pointer from deep in the right corner and Kelly Wise converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Tigers up 44-41 with 9:55 to play in the game.
Memphis came down with a chance to build the lead, but Mims came up with the loose ball and on the fast break, Richardson fed Mims down the lane who converted a three-point play of his own to tie the game back up.
The Tigers began to pull away and pushed it out to nine points at 58-49 with 5:45 to play in the game when Scooter McFagdon nailed a three-pointer and Wagner followed it up with a running jumper from 10-feet out.
But the scrappy Golden Eagles fought back. Ben Lambert, a 6-foot-9 junior, slammed one home off a nice feed from Mims and Mims hit one-of-two from the line to cut it to 59-54 with 3:49 left in the game.
But from that point the Tigers made their free throws and outscored USM 14-10 to take the nine-point win.
Southern Miss, which is now 6-9 overall and 1-4 in league play, hits the road for two straight Conference USA games, beginning with a Wednesday night matchup with Houston. After visiting TCU a week from today, USM returns to Reed Green Coliseum to face Saint Louis on Jan. 29.
Memphis returns to action on Wednesday when it hosts UAB.