Memphis looks to extend its season-long winning streak to 11 games Saturday when it closes out a three-game Conference USA road trip with a visit to Marshall.
Even though they struggled, the third-ranked Tigers (21-2, 7-0 C-USA) picked up their 10th straight win and improved to 8-0 on the road Tuesday with an 84-79 victory at Rice.
Memphis, which had an 84-61 win at Tulsa on Feb. 1, is tied with the 1985-86 team for the best 23-game start in school history and is one of only two schools in the nation that is still undefeated in true road games this season. UCLA, which plays Saturday at No. 21 Washington, has won all six of its true road games.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 21 points and Rodney Carney added just 13 for the Tigers, who went 9-for-31 to shoot 29 percent from 3-point range and committed 18 turnovers.
“If a team gets after us and becomes physical, that bothers us,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “That’s one of those things we have to get better at.”
Carney, who entered the game averaging 21.3 points over the last three games while making 9-of-19 from 3-point range, shot just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc and 5-of-16 overall for Memphis, which missed 11 of its first 18 shots.
“It was one of those crazy, crazy games,” said Calipari. “We’re lucky to get out of here alive.”
The Tigers, who failed score a basket in the final eight minutes, hung onto the lead by sinking 23 of its final 26 free throws, including four in as many attempts by Rice.
Point guard Darius Washington, Jr., who missed a pair of free throws in the Tigers 75-74 loss to Louisville in last year’s Conference USA championship, sank two free throws with 25.4 seconds left against Rice to secure the win.
“You make those shots and the fans have no say-so,” said Washington, who approached the line to a chorus of insults from the crowd. “And if there comes a point where I can do it, I’ll do it. I still want to take those.”
Memphis is one of four schools with a 10-game winning streak, trailing only No. 9 George Washington, which carries an 11-game winning streak into its game Saturday at Saint Joseph’s.
Marshall (9-12, 2-6) has lost consecutive games and three of its last four after a 78-75 overtime loss Wednesday to Rice. Mark Patton had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Thundering Herd, who forced overtime by overcoming a seven-point deficit in the final 1:22 of regulation.
Markel Humphrey scored 14 points and Tre Whitted finished with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes.
“We are going to have to get tougher if we are going to go on through this month and make anything happen,” Marshall coach Ron Jirsa said.
Marshall, a Conference USA newcomer, has lost six of its last seven conference games. The Herd are facing Memphis for just the third time in school history and split the first two games.