No. 24 Memphis dominates Rutgers 101-69

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis made a concentrated effort to pound the ball inside early, and freshman forward Austin Nichols benefited from the strategy.

Nichols scored 18 points, and Joe Jackson added 16 points and eight assists as the 24th-ranked Tigers jumped to an early lead before dominating Rutgers 101-69 on Tuesday night.

The Tigers (17-5, 7-3 American Athletic Conference) hit a season-high 12 3-pointers and shot 59 percent, also a best this season. Nichols was 8 of 9 from the field, and Jackson hit all but one of his seven shots. Memphis worked the ball to Nichols from the start, and he had 13 points before the midway point of the first half.

"Our philosophy was to go inside out and that's what we did," said Memphis guard Chris Crawford, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. "Austin was great for us. We had an inside presence early, and it opened up for the guards on the outside."

Memphis, which won its seventh game in the last nine, never trailed and led by as many as 41 points in the second half as the Tigers rebounded from an 87-72 loss at SMU on Saturday.

Michael Dixon scored 15 points, Shaq Goodwin added 13 and Geron Johnson had 12 for Memphis.

"Establishing the post presence early on in the game set everything else up," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "I love that Austin Nichols went 8 of 9 from the floor. He and Shaq Goodwin had some great moves down there below the rim."

Pastner later added: "We are just a better team when we play through the post."

Kadeem Jack was the only Scarlet Knight in double figures with 12 points as Rutgers (9-14, 3-7) lost its fifth in the last six.

Memphis controlled the paint outscoring Rutgers 44-28 and held a 32-12 advantage on points off turnovers. Rutgers committed 17 turnovers to 14 for Memphis.

Memphis outrebounded Rutgers 40-29.

Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said Memphis was more physical, but also displayed its "expertise at the 3 and in the paint."

"They're bigger than we are," he said. "They're tougher, and they're better. .They almost shocked us with their physicality."

For Nichols, the performance was particularly satisfying. He had scored a total of 15 points in the last four games and was 7 of 18 from the field over that span. Pastner said part of going inside early was to get Nichols involved.

"It was definitely a confidence booster," Nichols said of the start. "It's definitely a positive."

With 9:51 left in the first half, Memphis held a 31-5 lead, had hit 12 of its 15 shots and was dominating every aspect of the game.

Rutgers hit one of its first nine shots and was 2 of 12 at one point.

By halftime, Memphis held a 56-21 lead. Nichols hit all seven of his shots en route to 16 points, while Jackson was 4 of 5 for 10 points.

"It was what it was," Jordan said. "I told our guys at halftime: `It's a lesson. We're being taught a lesson here."

The Tigers went into the break hitting 67 percent from the field and 8 of 11 from outside the arc.

Rutgers was limited to 25 percent shooting (6 of 24), and were 1 of 11 shots from 3-point range.

Rutgers went more than 8 minutes with just one field goal and that translated into a 27-2 run for Memphis, which eventually would lead by 35 points shortly before halftime.

The second half was pretty much a matter of playing out the final 20 minutes. Memphis continued to connect on 3-pointers, still hitting at a 71 percent clip -- 12 of 17 -- near the 8-minute mark.

Rutgers shot 53 percent in the second half to finish the game at 41 percent.

Crawford said the Tigers have determined that establishing the inside post play is the most effective strategy.

"That's the philosophy from here on out," he said. "That's what we are going to do. Inside out. Inside first. That's going to make the defense suck in on the post and open it up for the guards."