Memphis has had little trouble in beginning its run toward a third straight Conference USA title.
One of three undefeated Division I teams, the second-ranked Tigers look to secure the best start to a season by a league member when they visit lowly Rice on Wednesday night.
Memphis (15-0, 2-0) won 68-45 at Marshall on Saturday as the Tigers continued the program’s best start since the 1985-86 squad opened with a school-record 20 consecutive wins.
A victory Wednesday against Rice (3-12, 0-2)—which has lost five in a row overall and has never beat Memphis in four tries—would propel the Tigers to the best start by a C-USA team. Former member Cincinnati also started 15-0 in 1998-99.
The Tigers also look to extend their league-record winning streak over conference teams to 26 games, while trying to win their 20th consecutive regular-season league contest.
In its first true road game in almost a month Saturday, Memphis was led by its pair of 6-foot-9 frontcourt stars.
Robert Dozier had 16 points with 12 rebounds for his third double-double in four games, while Joey Dorsey added 11 and 12 boards as the Tigers outrebounded pesky Marshall 43-28.
Freshman guard Derrick Rose had 19 points for the second straight game as Memphis didn’t let the hostile environment in Huntington prevent it from holding the Thundering Herd to 34.0 percent shooting and outscoring them 34-18 in the second half to pull away.
“I’ve got a veteran team. I have eight players from that team that won 33 games,” said Memphis coach John Calipari of playing on an opponent’s home court for just the second time this season. “The three players that we’ve added— Derrick Rose, Jeff Robinson and Shawn Taggart—are very skilled and very tested.
“We’ve got a group that’s used to it.”
Though Memphis failed to score 70 points for just the fourth time this season, it allowed its second fewest points of 2007-08.
“They just keep coming at you,” Marshall coach Donnie Jones said. “I give Memphis credit for that.”
Memphis likely won’t face as much of a challenge when it visits Rice.
Current reserve Willie Kemp had 20 points in a starting role, while Chris Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson each had 14 for the Tigers in their 99-63 home win over the Owls on Feb. 22 in the teams’ most recent meeting.
Rice lost 71-43 at UTEP on Saturday, marking the third straight game and the fifth time in the last seven that the Owls were held to fewer than 50 points.
Paulius Packevicius had 13 points with nine rebounds and was the only player in double figures for Rice, which shot 29.8 percent—the third time in five games the Owls shot worse than 30 percent.
The 6-9 junior averages a team-leading 10.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, but was held to four points and five boards against Memphis last season.
Rice, which has lost seven of its last eight conference games, is averaging 47.6 points during its five-game losing streak. The Owls are playing home games at three different sites due to renovations to their on-campus arena, Autry Court, and Wednesday’s game will be at Reliant Arena.
Rice will face its fourth ranked team this season Wednesday as it looks to snap a 15-game losing skid versus Top 25 opponents.