ORLANDO, Fla. — Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford both scored 19 points and No. 19 Memphis claimed its eighth Conference USA championship with a 76-67 victory over Central Florida on Saturday.
Adonis Thomas added 12 points for the Tigers (25-4, 14-0 CUSA), who gave coach Josh Pastner his 100th career win, all at Memphis.
Keith Clanton had 29 points and six rebounds for UCF (19-10, 8-6). Kasey Wilson added 11 points and Isaiah Sykes had 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Memphis turned up the defensive pressure in the middle of the second half to break open a close game.
Memphis got the first two baskets of the second half to stretch the lead to 38-29 before Clanton ran off nine straight points. The last two came on a two-fisted slam that tied the game at 38 with 15:47 to go.
Crawford stopped the run with a 15-footer and Jackson scored six points as Memphis regained control with a 16-5 run that made it 54-43 with 11:23. Memphis' lead never went under six points after that.
UCF sliced the deficit to 68-62 when Newell drilled a 3-pointer with 3:37 to play, but the Knights couldn't handle Memphis' size and strength inside. Tigers center Shaq Godwin bullied his way past Clanton for layups on three straight possessions and Black had a layup on the next possession to end any hopes of a rally.
UCF took advantage of a sloppy start by Memphis, taking a 14-4 lead in the first 6 minutes of the game, but the Tigers settled down defensively and eventually gained control.
Crawford started a 13-5 run to end the half with a 3-pointer and Tariq Black finished it with a thunderous dunk. Along the way, the Tigers forced three straight turnovers and ran off 10 consecutive points to take a 34-29 halftime lead.