AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — When D.J. Stephens is dunking and blocking shots, Memphis looks like a team that could make an extended run in this NCAA tournament.
Then, the Tigers start missing free throws and turning the ball over — and suddenly no lead seems safe.
“It’s the NCAA tournament. Things like that happen,” coach Josh Pastner said. “We just missed some free throws down the stretch and they made some great 3s, but I was totally at peace.”
Memphis held on when Matthew Dellavedova’s 3-pointer from the right wing sailed long as time expired. The sixth-seeded Tigers beat 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s 54-52 on Thursday despite nearly blowing a five-point lead in the last few seconds.
Memphis (31-4) now moves on to face Michigan State on Saturday. The third-seeded Spartans beat 14th-seeded Valparaiso 65-54. In the night session, fourth-seeded Michigan beat 13th-seeded South Dakota State 71-56, and fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth routed 12th-seeded Akron 88-42.
Memphis led by 15 in the first half, but nearly gave the game away at the end. Memphis led 54-49 after Stephens made only one of two free throws. Eividas Petrulis banked in a 3-pointer for Saint Mary’s with 3.1 seconds to play, and the Tigers then lost the ball when the Gaels’ Jordan Giusti deflected the inbound pass off Joe Jackson of Memphis and out of bounds.