DALLAS - Andre Allen isn’t the Memphis player opposing teams consider a serious threat. He’s a 5-foot-10 guard who comes off the bench and doesn’t make a lot of shots, especially from long range.
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Allen had quite a 2½-minute spurt late in the first half, providing the spark the top-seeded Tigers needed to finally push ahead of feisty Oral Roberts en route to a 94-78 victory Friday.
“There’s a star born in all of these games and today it seemed to be Andre Allen,” Memphis coach John Calipari said.
Allen matched his season high, scoring all 11 of his points with three 3-pointers in that quick burst after Oral Roberts took a 33-29 lead. He had made 15 3s all season, with only three the previous 16 games, two of them coming in the same game a month ago.
“We thought he was a driver mostly,” Oral Roberts’ Ken Tutt said. “He stepped up and hit the shots. We didn’t adjust early enough.”
Oral Roberts (21-12) still led by a point before Allen hit a 3-pointer from the left side. After a miss by the Golden Eagles, Allen hit a long-range shot from the right side, and added another 3 with 2:58 left to put the Tigers up 44-35.
“My job is usually to help the team by playing defense and leading the club,” Allen said. “But they were giving me shots, so I had to take them. We all have the green light if we’re open.”
Conference USA player of the year Rodney Carney had 19 points to lead five players in double figures for Memphis (31-3), which played its first game as a No. 1 seed. The Tigers tied a team record for wins, matching the 1984-85 team that went to the Final Four.
Even though Memphis entered the NCAA tournament as the only team other than Duke with 30 wins, some thought the Tigers might be the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed.
The young Tigers — Carney is the only regular player who isn’t a freshman or sophomore — played in Conference USA, which sent only one other team to the NCAA tournament. Plus, Oral Roberts featured two-time Mid Continent player of the year Caleb Green in a lineup filled with upperclassmen.
The Tigers certainly seemed vulnerable when Tutt’s ally-oop pass was tipped in by Larry Owens to put Oral Roberts up 33-29 with 5:39 left before halftime.
But Allen helped turn things around in a hurry, and keyed a 20-2 run with his layup after Carney made a free throw.
Green then made two free throws with 4:36 left to put Oral Roberts in front 35-34, its last lead before the three 3s by Allen.
“They were backing off on Andre and he was knocking ’em down. Our depth is great. We’ve got guys who can step up,” Darius Washington said. “People have no choice now but to jump on the Memphis bandwagon.”
The Tigers play Bucknell in the second round of the Oakland Regional on Sunday. The Bison beat Arkansas 59-55 earlier Friday.
Oral Roberts is out after its first NCAA appearance since 1984, also a first-round loss against the Tigers.
Shawne Williams and Washington had 14 points each for Memphis, and Antonio Anderson had 10. The Tigers shot 60 percent from the field (37-of-61) and matched a season high with 11 3-pointers, the last Carney’s with 9:22 left that made it 78-63.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Green had 19 points to lead five players in double figures for Oral Roberts, which shot 53 percent (28-of-53) even after missing six of its last nine shots. Owens had 13 points and 11 rebounds. Tutt and Jonathan Bluitt scored 11 points each and Chris Riouse 10.
Chris Douglas-Roberts’ nifty underhand shot with 1:16 left pushed Memphis ahead 49-35 before Mickey Michalec had a short jumper to end Oral Roberts’ worst slump of the game — a 4½-minute stretch with five straight missed shots and three turnovers.
Green made a tough shot to start the second half and get the Golden Eagles within 51-41, but they couldn’t gain any more ground even missing only one of their first eight shots. They were still down 65-55 when Owens was called for goaltending to wipe out an apparent tip-in.
“Every game, you’ve got to focus. We watch games and see the intensity,” Carney said. “We’ve seen upsets. Having the extra day to watch, that prepared us better for what we had to go through. We prepared and came away with a great win.”
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