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Evans leads Memphis past UTEP

Feb 22, 2009 - 8:11 AM EL PASO, Texas (Ticker) -- Freshman Tyreke Evans scored 25 points to lead sixth-ranked Memphis to a 70-63 victory over Texas-El Paso on Saturday.

Evans was 9-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the arc, for the Tigers, who have won 18 straight and have not lost since December 20.

Memphis (24-3, 12-0 C-USA) has now won 54 straight conference games and is a win away from locking up its fourth straight regular-season crown.

Stefan Jackson scored 24 points for UTEP (16-10, 7-5), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Antonio Anderson scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Tigers.

Memphis was down at the break but outscored UTEP, 43-33, in the second half. The Miners led, 30-27, at the half, holding the Tigers to 32 percent (9-of-28) shooting from the field.

Memphis cranked it up in the final 20 minutes, shooting a blistering 59 percent (13-of-22) thanks to Evans, who scored 16 of his points in the second half.

"Coach told somebody to step up, who wants the ball?" Evans told the El Paso Times. "They put the ball in my hands, and I made the shots.

"I felt more comfortable (in the second half). I wasn't looking to shoot in the first half. I was looking to catch and pass. In the second half, I came out firing."

Tavaris Watts gave UTEP a 33-31 lead with a 3-pointer with 18:28 remaining before Memphis went on a 16-5 run to build a 47-38 cushion with 13:02 to go.

Jackson made a layup with 4:18 left to cut the Tigers' lead to 57-52, but Evans responded with back-to-back jumpers.

"Look at Puerto Rico," Evans told the newspaper of the team's November tournament. "I wasn't close to making those kinds of shots. Now I've gotten in a rhythm."

Culpepper hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to make it 67-63, and the Miners had a chance to draw closer after Evans missed two free throws. But Culpepper missed from the arc with 16 seconds left and Memphis scored the next three points at the foul line to complete the scoring.

"The game was rough and physical," Memphis coach John Calipari told the paper. "After the game, I had 25 text messages that said, 'That was a tough win.' That was a war."