Memphis coach John Calipari managed to find fault with his team’s play despite winning big in its last game. He wasn’t even happy with a 27-point victory over Rice last season.
With Calipari demanding tougher play, the 22nd-ranked Tigers look to remain unbeaten against the Owls and extend a 46-game Conference USA winning streak— including the postseason—when the teams meet Wednesday night.
Memphis (14-3, 4-0) shot 52.8 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from 3-point range in an 81-68 win over UAB on Saturday night, but Calipari believes his team had trouble matching up physically and lacked intensity going after loose balls.
“When the game gets to be roughhouse, we have guys that really struggle and they have to figure out how (to) play in a roughhouse, NBA, professional-style game,” he said. “We have to figure it out.”
The Tigers had trouble rebounding, tying the Blazers 33-33.
In last season’s matchup with Rice (6-11, 1-2), Memphis went 7-for-31 (22.5 percent) from 3-point range and barely outrebounded the smaller Owls 42-41 in a 77-50 win on Jan. 16, 2008.
Calipari wasn’t happy, often screaming at his team during timeouts for its lackadaisical effort. The Tigers won with their full-court defense, which helped force 29 turnovers.
Memphis is 5-0 all-time against Rice, helping it build a dominant run against Conference USA opponents. The Tigers haven’t lost in league play since falling 80-74 on the road against UAB on March 2, 2006.
Memphis has won eight straight overall, outscoring opponents by an average of 20.2 points.
Tyreke Evans was named Conference USA rookie of the week Monday for the fifth time after leading the Tigers with 24 points versus the Blazers. Evans tops Memphis with 17.2 points per game and leads the conference with 45 steals.
He’s one of three players averaging double figures in scoring on a Memphis team posting 77.2 points a contest. The Tigers are shooting 52.0 percent (13-for-25) from beyond the arc in their last two games.
Doneal Mack went 2-for-5 from long range and finished with 11 points versus UAB. He had 16 points off the bench against Rice last season.
The Owls shot 36.0 percent in that game, and have struggled in Conference USA play this season. They’re shooting 37.8 percent and averaging 58.3 points against league opponents.
Rice shot 19.2 percent (5-of-26) in the second half of a 77-52 loss to Central Florida on Saturday.
Connor Frizzelle was the only double-figure scorer for the Owls with 14 points. The freshman guard is averaging 7.9 points, but has posted 13.5 in his last two contests.
Frizzelle is shooting 55.5 percent (5-for-9) from 3-point range during that stretch after making 18.2 percent (8-for-44) of his attempts in his previous 15 games.
Rice is led by senior guard Cory Pflieger, averaging 10.4 points a contest.