Memphis coach John Calipari believes his interior defense is starting to match the team’s intensity on the perimeter. Southern Methodist, meanwhile, doesn’t pose much of a threat from anywhere on the floor.
The 14th-ranked Tigers look to win their 50th straight game in Conference USA play and shut down the lowly Mustangs yet again when the teams meet Wednesday night.
Memphis (18-3, 7-0) has been dominant on defense, holding opponents to 61.2 points per game and 37.3 percent shooting. The Tigers limited Houston - one of Conference USA’s top offenses - to 37.5 percent shooting in an 83-68 win on Saturday for their 49th straight league victory.
Calipari raved about Memphis’ post defense after his team outrebounded the Cougars 44-30 and held their frontcourt players to a combined seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.
“What I love is our post defensive play really stepped up,” Calipari said. “Now, all of a sudden, you’re pretty good in the post, and you’re pretty good on the perimeter. … Our team’s getting better. That’s all I’m asking.”
That’s bad news for the struggling Mustangs (6-13, 1-6), who are averaging 63.6 points per game. Southern Methodist is shooting 32.1 percent in its last two games and has lost four in a row, scoring 55 points or fewer three times in that span.
Memphis has had little trouble stopping SMU offensively since joining Conference USA, holding the Mustangs to an average of 53.8 points en route to five wins. SMU is shooting 37.4 percent and averaging 15.6 turnovers during that span.
The Tigers have won six straight in the series since losing the teams’ first matchup 66-63 on Dec. 14, 1953.
Memphis, which has won 12 straight overall, should be able to continue its run versus the Mustangs, especially with its offense also playing well. The Tigers have scored 80 points or more in four of their last five games.
All of Memphis’ starters reached double figures in scoring against Houston. Robert Dozier had 19 points and Doneal Mack added 18 to lead the Tigers.
Mack is shooting 51.9 percent (14-for-27) from beyond the arc in his last six games, averaging 11.6 points during that stretch.
“I’m being more consistent,” Mack said of his 3-point shooting. “I’m just trying to put the same shot up every time.”
The junior guard is 10-for-20 from long range in four career games versus SMU, including 3-for-7 in a 72-55 Memphis victory on March 5.
The Mustangs, meanwhile, have shot 23.1 percent (9-for-39) from 3-point range in their last two games. SMU shot 34.5 percent overall in a 64-55 loss to Tulsa on Saturday, getting held without a field goal for more than eight minutes early in the second half.
Paul McCoy, who leads the Mustangs with 12.8 points a contest, had 10 on 4-for-10 shooting. The freshman guard is also averaging 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.2 steals.
SMU’s second-leading scorer is also a first-year guard. Derek Williams is posting 12.6 points per game, 14.3 in his last eight contests.