Updated at: 11/17/2012 9:05 PM
By CLAY BAILEY
(AP) MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Adonis Thomas scored 16 points and Antonio Barton added 14 points and No. 17 Memphis escaped with a 65-54 victory over Samford on Saturday night in an opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
Joe Jackson added 13 points, four assists and three steals for Memphis (2-0), which converted all eight of its free throws in the final minute to preserve the victory.
Tim Williams led the Bulldogs (1-3) with 21 points and six rebounds, connecting on 7 of 11 shots. Raijon Kelly added 12 points on 4 of 6 shooting and five assists.
Samford was within 54-51 with 4:21 left, but Memphis’ free throw shooting in the final minute made the difference.
The Tigers, who struggled to create any buffer from the Bulldogs in the first half, seemed to take control of the game, building a 54-42 lead with just over 9 minutes left when Thomas converted two free throws.
But Samford answered with nine straight points _ four from Williams and five from Connor Miller (nine points) to get within three points.
Jackson split a pair of free throws, then Thomas scored four straight points, the last two starting the final run of free throws to preserve Memphis’ win.
Memphis carried a 33-24 lead into halftime, primarily by protecting the basketball. The Tigers had only one turnover compared to 10 for Samford.
That offset the Bulldogs’ shooting 53 percent for the half. The Samford offense was focused primarily on Williams, who had nine points in the half, missing only one of his five shots.
Memphis did do a better job of controlling the freshman forward after he scored the Bulldogs’ first two baskets, scoring all of Samford’s first five points.
Barton had eight points to lead Memphis.
Samford, which lost to No. 2 Louisville 80-54 on Thursday, stayed close to the Tigers midway through the half. Only a 10-4 spurt provided a buffer for Memphis in the first half.
The Tigers never led by more than nine in the half.
Samford shot 46 percent for the game and committed 16 turnovers. Memphis shot 48 percent and had six miscues.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)