Rodney Carney has helped Memphis get off to its best start in more than 20 years.
The senior forward looks to continue his solid play and lead the third-ranked Tigers to their 10th consecutive victory when they visit Rice on Saturday.
Carney scored 19 points in Memphis’ 84-61 win over Tulsa on Wednesday. He scored 12 straight points during a 19-2 run in the first half as the Tigers (20-2, 6-0 Conference USA) took control.
With the victory, Memphis reached 20 wins quicker than any other Tigers squad since the 1984-85 team, which reached the mark in the second-fewest games in school history. The 1970-71 team opened the season 20-0.
Darius Washington Jr. added 22 points Wednesday for the Tigers, who are the only C-USA team without a conference loss.
After the game, coach John Calipari said Carney, his team’s leading scorer, compares favorably with Duke’s J.J. Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, both of whom are often cited as the nation’s best players.
“I know J.J. Redick is good and I know Morrison is good, but you’ve got to have him in the same breath,” Calipari said. “Neither one of those two are athletic like him. He shoots the ball the same as they do. His numbers are the same for his career.”
The senior forward is averaging 18.2 points per game this season, nearly 11 fewer than Morrison, who leads the country with 29.0 per game. Redick ranks second in the nation with 27.8 per game.
Morrison, a junior, has averaged 18.5 points for his career, while Redick, a senior, is at 19.3. Carney, a senior, has averaged 14.1 points in his career.
“I’m athletic. I can shoot 3s, but still I’m athletic,” said Carney, averaging 21.3 points over the last three games while making 9-of-19 from 3-point range. “I’ve got to go get rebounds, I’ve got to go dunk. They don’t have to. They shoot. We’re all three different players.”
While Calipari admits Carney isn’t as good with the ball, the coach pointed to his player’s aggressive defense—and the fact he shut down Redick in the second half of Duke’s 70-67 win over Memphis on Nov. 25.
“At the end of the day, let’s see where he gets picked in the draft. Let’s see where he gets picked,” Calipari said. “I think he’ll be picked very high … He sells a lot of tennis shoes and he’ll sell a lot of tickets.”
Memphis is playing the second of three consecutive road games. The Tigers, who visit Marshall next Saturday, are the only team in the league to play three straight conference games on the road.
Rice (9-10, 3-4) lost for the third time in four games on Tuesday, falling 70-53 to Tulane. Lorenzo Williams scored 25 points for the Owls, but Morris Almond, who leads the conference with 19.9 points per game, was held to seven points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Rice, in its first season in Conference USA, has not scored more than 70 points in its last five games.
Memphis has won both previous meetings between the schools. The Tigers won 64-56 in 1967 in the most recent matchup.