Memphis 85, No. 9 Louisville 68
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP)—A milestone win for coach John Calipari could be a turning point to Memphis’ tumultuous season.
Freshman point guard Darius Washington scored 25 points and Calipari earned his 300th victory in the Tigers’ 85-68 win over No. 9 Louisville on Wednesday.
“I’m calm now,” said Calipari, who turns 46 on Thursday. “But when I get near the plane, I’m going to do some back-flips up the steps. I’m so happy.”
Rodney Carney added 24 points and Anthony Rice had 15—all in the second half—for the Tigers (14-10, 7-3 Conference USA), who beat a Top 25 team on the road for the first time in five tries this season and snapped Louisville’s nine-game winning streak.
“We played hard, we scrambled and we played hard on defense,” Calipari said. “But it was our day.”
Calipari has a 300-120 record in 13 seasons at Massachusetts and Memphis.
Taquan Dean and Ellis Myles each scored 17 points for Louisville (20-4, 8-2), which suffered its worst home loss in four seasons under Coach Rick Pitino.
A frustrated Pitino kept his players away from the media afterward.
“Our locker room is closed,” he said. “I don’t think they are worthy of speaking to you.”
Louisville was leading the nation in margin of victory coming into the game (+23), but Pitino has been saying for weeks that the Cardinals have plenty of improvements to make.
The Tigers exposed many of their flaws, outrebounding Louisville 41-30 and holding the nation’s fourth-best offense to 33 percent shooting (19-of-58), a season low.
“I knew it was coming,” Pitino said, “I just didn’t think it would be this bad.”
The Cardinals rank second in the nation in field goal percentage defense, but the Tigers’ defense took control early, triggering a 16-5 opening run by holding the Cardinals without a point for more than 9 minutes.
Louisville, averaging 85 points per game, missed seven straight shots and committed five turnovers during the drought. At the end of one sloppy possession, Myles threw up just the ninth 3-point attempt of his career, missing it badly.
“The first 10 shots we took were terrible shots,” Pitino said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, committed only one turnover in the first 12 minutes after coughing up a season-high 26 in a loss to Houston last Saturday.
Much of that was due to Washington, who repeatedly glided through the Cardinals’ full-court pressure for layups.
“I was breaking the press, getting in the middle,” said Washington, who had five assists and five rebounds. “I was taking it and they just fell.”
Myles made two free throws with 7:47 left in the half to end Louisville’s scoreless stretch. He had a layup and zipped an assist to Francisco Garcia to trim Memphis’ lead to 16-11.
Carney then hit two 3-pointers during a 10-2 run that muted the capacity crowd. He and Washington scored 28 of the Tigers’ 34 first-half points. The Cardinals mustered only 22 first-half points after missing 15 of 20 shots.
Louisville continued to sputter in the second half, missing 10 of its first 13 shots.
Rice hit a 3-pointer with 16:49 left to launch a decisive 16-2 run. Garcia hit a free throw with 11:05 left, but Rice made a 3-pointer to push the lead to 57-31, the Tigers’ biggest to that point.
“I was shocked,” Washington said. “We got them down and we kept them down.”
Dean hit a 3-pointer with 7 minutes left as Louisville’s defense finally started generating turnovers and easy baskets.
A layup by Myles with 5:12 to go trimmed Louisville’s deficit to 66-49, but Rice made four free throws over the next minute as the Tigers pushed the lead back over 20.
The victory was a much-needed confidence boost for a team that’s dealt with its share of adversity. Last month, guard Jeremy Hunt was briefly suspended after he was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend and forward Sean Banks was ruled ineligible because of poor grades.
“It helps us a lot to beat Top 25 team,” Carney said. “Not a lot of teams come in here and win.”
Louisville had a 10-game home-court winning streak snapped and matched its worst defeat at Freedom Hall since a 74-57 loss to UAB on Feb. 28, 2001, former coach Denny Crum’s final regular-season home game.
Garcia, Louisville’s leading scorer, went 1-for-8 and scored seven points.