After wrapping up another Conference USA title last week, all that remains for Memphis is the pursuit of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Continuing some lengthy win streaks would help the fifth-ranked Tigers draw closer to that goal.
Memphis (26-3, 14-0) seeks its 21st consecutive victory and 57th in a row in C-USA as it travels to Houston on Wednesday night.
Despite graduating three starters from their national runner-up squad, the Tigers own the longest win streak in the country for the third straight season, having won 26 straight in 2007-08 and 25 in a row in 2006-07. Memphis clinched its fourth straight conference title with a 71-60 victory Thursday night at Alabama-Birmingham.
While they were one of the country’s highest-scoring teams last season, the Tigers have relied on stifling defense in 2008-09. They’re allowing 58.6 points and shooting 37.1 percent per game, and have limited opponents to 49.4 points over the past seven games.
Playing two games in less than 48 hours hardly fazed Memphis, which followed up Thursday’s victory with a 58-42 home win over Southern Miss on Saturday.
“Guys are tired,” said forward Robert Dozier, who finished with a team-leading 18 points and seven rebounds. “We pushed through it, and we played great enough defense to get the W. That’s all the matters.”
The Tigers will be trying for a ninth straight ‘W’ over Houston, but they’ll be facing a team that’s proved difficult to beat at home of late.
Since an 89-77 loss to then-No. 1 Memphis last Jan. 30, Houston (18-9, 9-5) is 17-2 at Hofheinz Pavilion. The Cougars have won 10 of their last 11 home games in conference play.
The Tigers, though, have won their last two in Houston, and the Cougars have alternated losses and wins in their last four games since a four-game win streak. That run began after an 83-68 defeat to then-No. 18 Memphis on Jan. 31 at FedEx Forum.
Dozier led Memphis with 19 points and 10 rebounds in that game and scored 21 in the Jan. 30, 2008 contest at Hofheinz. Antonio Anderson scored 16 points in this season’s matchup and was one of five Tigers in double figures.
Anderson, a career 8.5 points-per-game scorer, has averaged 14.3 in his last four games against Houston.
While Memphis is one of the best defensive teams in the country, Houston is among the highest scoring at 77.2 points per game. The Cougars are led offensively by the duo of Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis.
Coleman, a junior college transfer, is averaging a team-leading 19.7 points and is the only player in the top four in C-USA in scoring and rebounding (7.9 per game). He scored a then-career high 35 points in the Jan. 31 loss - a mark he topped Feb. 18 with 38 against Marshall.
In Saturday’s 56-51 comeback victory over crosstown rival Rice, Coleman had two baskets during a game-ending 15-2 run and finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Lewis averages 18.2 points, although he was held to 10 on Jan. 31 in his first career start against Memphis.
Houston will be playing at home for only the fourth time in 10 games, while Wednesday’s contest will be the Tigers’ last away from home until the NCAA tournament. Memphis faces Tulsa in its regular-season finale Saturday at FedEx Forum, where the C-USA tournament will take place March 11-14.
The Tigers lead the series 21-10 and 8-4 in Houston.
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