Memphis got off to a slow start in Conference USA play, but it only lasted about a half.
The second-ranked Tigers will try to keep their perfect record intact on Saturday when they visit Marshall in their first conference road game of the season.
Memphis (14-0, 1-0 Conference USA) is one of just five remaining undefeated Division I teams. The Tigers are off to their best start since opening the 1985-86 season with a school-record 20 straight wins.
They have won 18 straight regular-season Conference USA games, second all-time in the league to Cincinnati, which won 21 straight. Including conference tournament contests, the Tigers have won 24 consecutive league games, the most in C-USA history.
Memphis has not lost to a Conference USA opponent since falling 80-74 at UAB on March 2, 2006. After a pre-conference schedule that included Georgetown, Arizona, Connecticut and Southern California, the Tigers have a legitimate shot at making it through their C-USA schedule unscathed.
However, Memphis got off to a slow start in its conference opener on Wednesday. The TIgers led East Carolina by just four points with 5:50 led in the first half before opening a 14-4 run en route to a 99-58 win.
“They came out of the gate like Ohio State did against LSU,” coach John Calipari said, comparing East Carolina’s intensity to the start of the BCS championship game. “When I watched the first five or seven minutes, I was like: ‘This team is pretty good.’ But what we do to you over a period of time is just wear you down.”
Freshman Derrick Rose scored 19 points for the Tigers, while Chris Douglas-Roberts, who leads the team with an average of 16.9 points, chipped in 12.
“It wasn’t overconfidence,” reserve forward Shawn Taggart said of the slow start. “I feel like every game, teams are going to come out there and play the hardest they’ve ever played in their lives.”
Memphis, which is beating opponents by an average of 21.4 points, wrapped up a five-game homestand. The Tigers have won their last 10 true road games and have won four of their five meetings with Marshall (9-4, 1-0).
Memphis’ only loss in the series came in 1952 in the first matchup between the teams. The Tigers are the highest-ranked team ever to visit Huntington, West Va.
The Thundering Herd have won three straight, including a 66-47 victory at Rice on Wednesday in their conference opener. Mark Dorris scored 17 points and Markel Humphrey, who leads the team with 14.8 points per game, was one of three Marshall players with 10.
“We didn’t have the high level of intensity to start, but we took it to another level in the second half,” Dorris told Marshall’s official team Web site. “Give Rice credit, they played hard despite their injuries.”
Under first-year coach Donnie Jones, Marshall is off to its best start since it was 10-3 in 2000-01. The Herd, who are 8-1 at home, have never won their first two Conference USA games.
Marshall’s last home win over a ranked opponent was a 73-66 victory over then-No. 23 West Virginia on Dec. 17, 1997. The Herd did defeat then-No. 9 West Virginia on Jan. 25, 2006, on a neutral site for their last win over a ranked opponent.