Memphis likely needs little reminder of how tough an opponent Tulsa is.
The Tigers only need to watch video of Antonio Anderson’s buzzer-beating shot earlier this season, which gave them a one-point victory on the Golden Hurricane’s home floor.
Eighth-ranked Memphis looks to extend its Conference USA winning streak to 51 games on Wednesday when it hosts Tulsa in a matchup of the league’s top two teams.
The Tigers (20-3, 8-0) needed Anderson’s last-second heroics on Jan. 13 at Tulsa (17-7, 7-2) to escape with a 55-54 victory. A year removed from its national runner-up finish, Memphis has also used that shot as part of its return to prominence, stringing together 14 consecutive victories - the nation’s second-longest run behind No. 21 Utah State’s 18.
The Tigers added to that streak with a 68-50 win Saturday night at No. 18 Gonzaga - their first victory over a ranked opponent in three tries this season. Memphis limited the Bulldogs to a season low for points and 36.7 percent shooting to clinch a school-record ninth 20-win season in a row.
“We can’t play much better,” coach John Calipari said. “There may be a better defensive team in the country (than Memphis), but I’ve got to see it.”
Perhaps Tulsa could make its case on Wednesday. The Golden Hurricane have allowed 60.2 points per game compared to the Tigers’ 61.0 average, and they are the top two teams in conference play with Memphis giving up 61.9 points and Tulsa 62.2.
Only Tennessee held the Tigers to fewer points in a game this season - a 54-52 victory for Memphis on Jan. 24. In the first of three meetings in 2007-08, the Golden Hurricane limited Memphis to its lowest output of the season in a 56-41 loss.
Tulsa enters Wednesday’s game with its own win streak, which was extended to five games with a 76-65 victory Saturday against visiting UTEP. Jerome Jordan scored a team-leading 22 points for his fifth 20-point performance in the last eight games, and his team-best 14 rebounds gave the 7-foot center a career-high ninth double-double.
However, Jordan, who has averaged 10.0 rebounds in league play, couldn’t stop Anderson’s double-clutch layup last month after Ben Uzoh hit a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds left to give Tulsa the lead.
“We have a tough challenge going into Memphis and playing on their home court,” forward Ray Reese said. “We are definitely looking forward to the challenge. It’s a great opportunity for us because they are a nationally ranked team. It was close last time we played them here at home, so we are confident going into this game.”
While Tulsa may have the confidence, the Tigers have Tyreke Evans. The star freshman averaged 24.0 points in two games last week and Evans, who leads the Tigers with 17.0 points per game, had 23 in the previous meeting with the Golden Hurricane.
Memphis has won all eight games since Tulsa joined Conference USA in 2005-06, and the first seven victories came by an average of 17.1 points.
The Tigers lead the series 16-12 and have won eight of 14 meetings on their home floor.