Memphis is well on its way to winning a second consecutive regular-season Conference USA title.
Defeating Southern Mississippi at home for a 13th straight time would make it happen.
The 21st-ranked Tigers look to extend their longest winning streak in four seasons to 18 on Saturday when they face a Golden Eagles team that’s hasn’t lost since falling to Memphis earlier this month.
Undefeated since an 87-78 loss to then-No. 6 Louisville on Dec. 15, Memphis (23-3, 12-0) has a two-game edge over second-place Southern Miss (21-6, 10-2) for the Conference USA lead with four league games left for both teams.
With a win, the Tigers can clinch the conference by virtue of an 89-76 victory on Feb. 9 that snapped the Golden Eagles’ 23-game home winning streak.
Before opening a three-game stretch on the road with Tuesday’s non-conference matchup versus Xavier, Memphis will go for their 11th straight home win and try to remain undefeated with Southern Miss in town since Dec. 27, 2000.
Another big game by Adonis Thomas and Chris Crawford could make that happen.
Thomas, a sophomore forward, is averaging 17.4 points while scoring in double figures in a career-best five straight games.
“Just having that confidence, seeing those shots going down,” said Thomas, whose 22 points led five Tigers in double figures in Wednesday’s 81-74 victory over Houston. “Early in the season, I missed some shots, and I got down on myself because I knew how hard I worked on it. …Seeing those shots go down is giving me a lot of confidence.”
Crawford should have plenty of that after finishing with 11 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and a career high-tying nine assists on Wednesday.
The junior guard hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points with six assists against Southern Miss two weeks ago, while Thomas added 11 points and four boards.
Southern Miss has rebounded nicely from that defeat with three victories. After reaching the 20-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season with last Saturday’s 86-82 overtime victory at East Carolina, the Golden Eagles defeated UTEP 45-39 on Wednesday to reach double-digit conference wins for a team-record second straight season. They also clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
However, if Southern Miss has any hopes of ending Memphis’ longest surge since a 27-game run in 2008-09, it will likely need a better effort from leading scorer Dwayne Davis, who had his streak of 20-point games snapped at three on Wednesday with six on 3-of-13 shooting.
Davis hit three 3s and scored 25 on Feb. 6 to match Memphis’ Geron Johnson for game scoring honors.
The Golden Eagles are 5-1 on the road in league play, but they’ve dropped their last 11 visits to Top 25 teams by an average of 25.2.
The Tigers have won 17 straight regular-season home games over unranked teams.