MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Someone finally gave Memphis a scare at home.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 15 points, including five in the final 2:28, and No. 11 Memphis rallied past Southern Mississippi 67-64 on Saturday for its ninth straight victory.
The Tigers (17-3, 7-0 Conference USA) had to come back from six points down with 6:25 to play. Jeremy Hunt led Memphis with 21 points, and Douglas-Roberts’ two free throws with 7.6 seconds left preserved the win.
“We almost lost one, but almost doesn’t count,” said Douglas-Roberts, who is still favoring a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the previous two games.
Joey Dorsey grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds and added three blocks for Memphis.
Jeremy Wise had 28 points and five assists to lead Southern Mississippi (13-6, 3-3), and Sai’Quon Stone finished with 15 points.
It was by far the toughest home game of the season for the Tigers, who have won 25 in a row at the FedExForum. Coming in, Memphis had beaten visitors by an average of 23.5 points this season. Ole Miss presented the strongest previous challenge, losing by 12 in December.
“We need games like this, even at home,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “If the other team is playing harder with more desire, we’ll lose.”
But instead of his usual stand that his team didn’t play up to its potential, Calipari gave credit to Southern Mississippi.
“We were fortunate to win,” he said.
Even Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy thinks Memphis’ talented team could benefit from a few more tests.
“They’ve had so much success. I think the best thing that could happen to Memphis—and I tell John this all the time—is that they lose a game,” Eustachy said. “They’re going to win this league, and this is all about March for them. They could be helped if they faced a little adversity.”
Southern Mississippi, the league’s top defensive team, was unfazed by the Tigers’ winning streak and caused problems for Memphis throughout. The Tigers didn’t help themselves by shooting 21-of-37 from the free throw line.
“This was like a tournament game,” Douglas-Roberts said. “A team that is not really noticed, comes out and plays hard like they are playing for their lives. We need games like this to get ready.”
Southern Miss led early, but a late burst by Memphis to close the first half gave the Tigers the lead. Still, the Golden Eagles stayed close and retook the lead midway through the second half.
Southern Mississippi led 55-50 with just more than six minutes left when Memphis scored eight unanswered points, including a pair of 3-pointers by Hunt, to reclaim the lead.
The teams exchanged the lead, with the Golden Eagles holding a 62-60 advantage with 2:12 to go. But Memphis closed the game with a 7-2 run.
“We totally unraveled and could not get to the locker room fast enough,” Eustachy said. “I thought the team responded well at halftime. Then we came into the same scenario in the second half, and didn’t unravel.”
Memphis carried a 32-25 lead into halftime, but it was Southern Mississippi that controlled play early.
Wise had 13 points in the first half for the Golden Eagles. Hunt, struggling with his shooting touch, led Memphis with 11 points—but he hit only three of nine shots in the half.
The Southern Mississippi defense caused havoc for Memphis early in the game, limiting Tigers shots and forcing turnovers.
The defense and an early offensive burst from Wise, who hit his first four shots, gave the Golden Eagles a nine-point lead after Memphis went more than five minutes without a field goal. At the time, Southern Mississippi was shooting 50 percent, while the Tigers were at 25 percent.
But Memphis finally got going and the crowd got into the game during the last 9 minutes of the half. The Tigers went on a 12-0 run in the final 6:51, led by Hunt’s eight points.
Calipari shuffled players throughout while trying to find the right combination to crack the Golden Eagles’ defense, but the Tigers shot only 39 percent.
The Golden Eagles were hurt by 19 turnovers.