Memphis is passing every test presented to it. Another big one is looming.
First, the fourth-ranked Tigers look to take care of Purdue on Friday night as they continue a six-game homestand.
Memphis (10-1) ran its winning streak to seven games and continued its best start in 20 years when it beat No. 8 Gonzaga 83-72 on Tuesday night.
The Tigers began 20-0 in 1985, but that squad didn’t face any ranked teams through the first 10 games. Memphis is 3-1 against ranked teams this season, the only loss to No. 1 Duke.
Memphis has another chance to defeat a ranked team when it hosts No. 15 Texas on Monday.
The Tigers had early problems containing NCAA scoring leader Adam Morrison, who finished with 34 points for Gonzaga. Memphis coach John Calipari made a defensive switch on Morrison midway through the second half, replacing senior Rodney Carney with freshman Shawne Williams. The change worked as the Tigers held Morrison without a basket for the final 9:31 of the game.
“I said, `Look man, if we don’t stop him right now, we are not winning this game because he will go nuts,’ and Shawne Williams went in and stopped him,” Calipari said.
The Tigers used a balanced attack on offense and shot 49.2 percent from the floor. Darius Washington had 22 points and 10 assists, Carney had 17 points and Williams had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“They’ve got a lot of answers, a lot of athleticism, a lot of skill and they can hurt you in so many ways,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
Washington returned after missing a game due to a deep thigh bruise.
“I gave all I had. I was probably about 95 percent. That was after I warmed up. When I first got out there, I was about 70 or 80 percent,” Washington said. “But after I got loosened up and got my rhythm, everything else fell in place.”
Memphis closes its homestand with games against Middle Tennessee State and Winthrop before opening Conference USA play on Jan. 11 at East Carolina.
Purdue won its third in a row on Wednesday with a 62-54 victory over Tennessee-Martin, recording its longest winning streak since a four-game run in January 2004.
The Boilermakers (6-4) have lost three projected starters for the season and have turned to defense as the key to winning games. Purdue held the Skyhawks’ top two scorers scoreless during a 19-minute stretch.
“We simply are not going to be able to get into the high 70s and low 80s and win, so we have to be a defensive-minded team,” first-year coach Matt Painter said.
Nate Minnoy scored 15 points and Matt Kiefer had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Purdue, which didn’t win its sixth game until Feb. 9 last season. Purdue finished 7-21, its worst record since 1953, but the team has rebounded with strong defensive pressure, particularly from guards Bryant Dillon and Marcus Green.
“We try to lock down on scorers and make it tough for them to make shots,” Dillon said. “It’s about just being there every time they catch the ball. I want to make everything a little bit harder for them than it has been before.”
The Boilermakers have lost nine in a row against ranked opponents. This is the final nonconference game for Purdue before it opens Big Ten play on Jan. 4 at Northwestern.
Memphis leads the all-time series 4-1, including a 62-51 win last season at Purdue.