Memphis became the fourth school to win 17 straight games its last time out, but it hopes to avoid the same fate as the previous three.
The sixth-ranked Tigers try to become the first team to win 18 consecutive games this season as they visit Texas-El Paso on Thursday.
Memphis (25-3, 14-0 Conference USA) extended the longest current winning streak in the nation with its 77-64 victory over Houston on Sunday. The program hasn’t won 18 straight games since the 1985-86 team set the school record with 20 consecutive victories.
Eighteen straight wins has been an elusive mark in the college basketball ranks this season, though, as Clemson, Florida and Wisconsin all reeled off 17 straight wins during this season, but all failed to add another victory to that streak.
This contest could also pose as a trap game for Memphis, which stumbled in a similar scenario last season.
A year ago, the Tigers won 12 straight conference games before losing to UAB on March 2 in their next-to-last regular-season game. Again this season, they have an undefeated conference record heading into their penultimate game.
Having already cinched their second straight Conference USA title, the Tigers are trying to avoid a letdown and maintain momentum into the postseason.
“What everybody is saying when they are watching our team play is ‘Man, do they play hard. Wow, they chase down balls and rebound. They really pass to each other,’” Tigers coach John Calipari said. “The last thing they say is: ‘Man, are they deep.’ That’s the consensus everybody tells me.”
Memphis is led by one of the top defenses in Conference USA, and it has been extremely tough on opponents this last month. The Tigers outscored their opponents by 23.0 points in their seven February wins, holding them to an average of 59.3 points and 37.1 percent shooting.
“We’re deep, and that helps us,” Chris Douglas-Roberts said. “Eventually, a team that is not as deep as us will get worn out because we’re constantly running up and down.”
Douglas-Roberts finished with a team-high 19 points against the Cougars on Sunday, reaching double figures for the ninth straight game.
Douglas-Roberts is sixth in the conference in scoring with a 15.1-point average, and had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the Tigers’ 66-56 victory over UTEP last season in the first conference meeting between the two schools.
The Miners (14-14, 6-8) fell to East Carolina 79-78 on Saturday, their fourth loss in the last five games.
Stefon Jackson scored 24 points and had eight rebounds against the Pirates for his second straight solid performance. After scoring a season-low six points, shooting just 3-of-12 and grabbing only four rebounds in a loss to Tulsa on Feb. 17, Jackson has 46 points, has made 18 of 29 shots and pulled down 18 boards in his last two games.
He had 12 points against the Tigers last season as a freshman.
UTEP dropped its only game against a ranked team this season, losing at then-No. 20 Syracuse 83-69 on Nov. 12. It has lost its last six against Top 25 opponents, and 19 of its last 22 since 1996.