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Memphis clinches at least share of C-USA title with win over Southern Miss

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Memphis extended its winning streak to 18 games and clinched at least a share of the Conference USA with its victory over Southern Miss, 89-73, Saturday afternoon at FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

Since dropping out of the Top 25 and being the team that became fashionable to label “disappointing” after its performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Memphis has been on a tear. Coach Josh Pastner’s team has lost just one game in that span (22-1) and have an average margin of victory of just under 14 points per game.

A key has been point guard Joe Jackson, who has only failed to score in double figures three times since Atlantis and had 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists Saturday against Southern Miss.

In a weak C-USA this season, Memphis is doing all that it can. It does not allow for the Tigers to get a quality win in conferences games, rather into turns into a series of dodging possible resume blemishes. But Memphis has now hung 89 points on Southern Miss both at home and on the road and won by double digits twice.

That gives coach Josh Pastner’s team some room to operate. If Memphis slips up and loses in the conference tournament in Tulsa next month, they will still be in a position to grab an at-large bid. Southern Miss on the other hand likely needs to secure the automatic through the conference tournament to get avoid falling into the NIT.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: