Jackson's late free throws vault Memphis to Conference USA title, NCAA berth

The Associated Press
Saturday, March 12, 2011; 4:37 PM

EL PASO, Texas -- Joe Jackson made two free throws with 7 seconds left and Memphis rallied past UTEP 67-66 on Saturday to win the Conference USA championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

UTEP had a final chance to win at the buzzer, but Christian Polk's jumper fell short.

After Jackson's clutch shots gave the Tigers (25-9) their only lead of the game, UTEP pushed the ball up the floor and retained possession after a loose ball was knocked out of bounds by Memphis with 2.5 seconds left.

Miners coach Tim Floyd called timeout and set up an inbounds play from the baseline. Polk, who scored 27 points, took the pass on the right wing and got off a tough jumper from just inside the 3-point arc with three defenders running at him. The shot bounced off the front of the rim, and Memphis players rushed to the middle of UTEP's home court to celebrate.

Jackson finished with 17 points and Chris Crawford had 15 for No. 4 seed Memphis, routed 74-47 at UTEP just two weeks earlier. Tarik Black and Will Barton each added 11.

Julyan Stone pulled down 11 rebounds for the third-seeded Miners (25-9), who led by as many as 13.

UTEP opened the game with a 9-0 run before Memphis called a timeout. The Miners continued to pressure the Tigers throughout the first half before going into the break with a 36-27 lead.

Memphis started the second half with several defensive adjustments, including a full-court press that helped chip away at UTEP's 12-point lead with just more than 6 minutes left.

The Tigers went on a 9-0 run to cut it to 62-59 on Crawford's 3-pointer with 4:18 to go. Memphis finally tied it at 65 on another 3 by Crawford with 1:53 remaining.

Gabriel McCulley made one of two free throws with 1:30 left to put UTEP ahead 66-65.

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