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Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2005 11:57 PM EST
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Memphis 83, (24) Charlotte 69

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Encouraged by a supportive crowd, Memphis and Rodney Carney extended the late-season slide for Charlotte.

Carney scored 20 points and Jeremy Hunt and Anthony Rice added 13 apiece as the Tigers proved to have all the answers in an 83-69 victory over the 24th-ranked 49ers to advance into the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

Playing on its home court at the FedExForum, Memphis (18-14) outhustled a struggling Charlotte team on both ends of the court, shooting 44 percent (27-of-61) and dominating the boards by a 45-33 margin.

"We did a heck of a job," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "We turned it over a little bit, but I thought our effort was unbelievable."

For the fourth straight year, the tournament host has reached the semifinals. The Tigers will play South Florida on Friday.

Memphis, which entered the postseason event with a four-game losing streak, beat Saint Louis, 79-59, in the first round on Thursday. With this victory, the Tigers have won two games in the conference tournament for the first time. Meanwhile, the 49ers fell to 0-3 all-time against the Tigers.

Making just 35 percent (23-of-66) of their attempts, Charlotte (21-7) absorbed its third straight loss, a slump started when it was beaten by Louisville, 94-82, on March 3 with sole possession of first place on the line. After getting upset by South Florida, 85-73, in their regular-season finale on Saturday, the 49ers fell into a tie for second.

Behind 13 points by Carney, the Tigers took a slim 39-37 lead at halftime. In the second half, Hunt scored six points in the opening four minutes and Charlotte missed 10 of its first 11 shots and fell behind, 47-39, with 14:12 to play. Carney started a 16-3 run with a 3-pointer that pushed Memphis' cushion to 63-45 with 8 1/2 minutes to play.

The 49ers, who were limited to numerous one-shot possessions in the second half, got no closer than 12 points down the stretch.

Carney shot 7-of-14 with four 3-pointers and Arthur Barclay chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers, who will face either Cincinnati or South Florida in the semifinals on Friday. A win in the semifinals should solidify Memphis' bid for the NCAA Tournament.

"We just got to keep winning," Calipari said. "We've got to play ourselves in.

"To play the schedule that I threw at them was ludicrous. If we had three weaker teams and we beat them and were 19 or 20 and 11, we wouldn't be talking now about us being in or out. That's the truth. But we are, and so what we're going to have to do is play our way in."

Curtis Withers, the conference's top scorer, scored 32 points, but Brendan Plavich, the nation's leader in 3-pointers per game (4.0), finished 1-of-10 from the arc with three points for Charlotte.

Withers scored 20 points in the first half as the 49ers trailed by just two at the break. The 6-8 junior missed his first five shots of the second half and picked up his fourth foul with 9:57 remaining. He scored most of his 12 second-half points when the game was out of reach.

"I know Withers went crazy in the first half and really had an unbelievable night, but my point of it was, so he gets 40 and we win," Calipari said. "You can't go leaving Plavich, you can't go leaving (Eddie) Basden, let him get 40 and we'll win the game. He gets 32 and we win."

Basden, a three-time conference player of the week who averaged 16.2 points in league games during the regular season, scored 13 on 4-of-12 shooting for Charlotte, which became the third No. 2 seed to lose to a No. 7 seed in tournament play since 2000.

© 2005 STATS, Inc