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Memphis slips by Tennessee, 85-80

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Joe Jackson scored 20 points and had seven assists Friday night as Memphis built a 21-point lead before hanging on for an 85-80 victory over Tennessee to snap the Volunteers' four-game winning streak.

Adonis Thomas scored 18 points and Geron Johnson added 16 for Memphis (10-3), which has won eight of its last nine games. Jordan McRae scored a career-high 26 points and Josh Richardson added a career-high 20 for Tennessee (8-4), which made a frantic comeback after trailing 60-49 with 14:04 remaining.

Memphis beat Tennessee for the third straight time to match its longest winning streak in the history of this rivalry, whose future remains in question. Memphis also won three straight over Tennessee from 1993-95.

The contract for this series runs out at the end of the season. Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen and Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart are discussing the possibility of adding future games between the two schools in men's basketball as well as other sports.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner said earlier this week he didn't want to continue playing the Vols, but he indicated Thursday night that he and Bowen would re-evaluate the subject once the current contract expires. The crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena showered Pastner with boos when his name was announced during pregame introductions.

That crowd - the most vocal of the season thus far - included new Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and former Jim Thorpe Award-winning defensive back Eric Berry. But the Vols wouldn't give them much reason to cheer for much of the night.

Memphis shot 56.4 percent (31 of 55) against a Tennessee defense that hadn't allowed any of its previous opponents to make over half their shots. The Tigers also shot 63.6 percent (7 of 11) from 3-point range against the Vols, who were ranked sixth nationally in 3-point percentage defense (.250).

Memphis never trailed in the first half and owned a 42-28 lead at the intermission by doing pretty much whatever it wanted offensively. Memphis shot 64 percent overall and 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the first half.

In the meantime, Tennessee's offense continued its season-long habit of slow starts by shooting 27.6 percent (8 of 29) overall and 12.5 percent (1 of 8) from 3-point range in the first half. The Vols missed 10 of their first 11 shots.

Memphis seemed on the verge of a runaway early in the second half before McRae got Tennessee back into the game.

McRae made a conventional three-point play with 15:23 left and then sank a trio of 3-point shots over the next four minutes as the Vols chipped away at the 21-point deficit. McRae's surge got the crowd back into the game and gave Memphis reason to worry for the first time all night.

Tennessee got the lead all the way down to five points when Stokes' putback made it 69-64 with 5:02 left. The Tigers answered 16 seconds later with Johnson's 3-pointer from in front of the Memphis bench, and they hung on from there.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
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