MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Robert Dozier stood in the middle of Memphis’ locker room Saturday wearing a wrinkled white T-shirt and an NBA hat twisted to the side. His grim look was matched by his apology for an incident that ended up in a police report.
So maybe the Tigers aren’t perfect, even if their record is.
Dozier returned for Memphis after serving a one-game suspension, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds to help the top-ranked Tigers remain the nation’s only undefeated team with an 85-64 win over Central Florida.
A former girlfriend of Dozier filed a complaint with police last Sunday, saying he hit her in the face after they got out of their cars and argued at an intersection.
“You just can’t do that,” Dozier said. “Especially being in the situation we’re in. A lot of people have their eyes on us.”
No charges have been filed, but the incident is one of the few stains on what’s been a stellar season.
“We are a family. We’re not throwing kids under the bus. We’re doing what we can to help them change,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “But we’re a performance family. You must perform. If you go in and you don’t perform, we’re going to play somebody else. But we still love you. I’ll still have you at my house having dinner. But you have to perform.”
The Tigers did, again.
Joey Dorsey had 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Derrick Rose led the Tigers (23-0, 9-0) with 15 points, extending the country’s longest active home winning streak to 46 and continuing their Conference USA supremacy.
Willie Kemp, Dozier and Rose hit consecutive 3-pointers as the Tigers scored 16 straight points over a six-minute run early in the second half, taking a 65-42 lead that was never challenged. Memphis had nine players score from beyond the arc.
“We’re raising the stakes as we go forward,” Calipari said. “Central Florida’s a good team, but when we make 3s we become a tough team to beat.”
Mike O’Donnell led Central Florida (12-11, 5-4) with 15 points, and Jermaine Taylor added 13 points and five rebounds.
The Knights were trying to topple the highest ranked opponent in school history, in just their second crack against the nation’s best. UCF lost 92-70 to Calipari’s No. 1 Massachusetts team in 1996.
“They’re tough. They’re the No. 1 team for a reason,” O’Donnell said. “If they become consistent from the outside, they’re a very dangerous team.”
Dorsey closed the game with 1,080 career boards for Memphis, becoming the league’s career rebounding leader. Former Tigers standout Kelly Wise previously held the conference mark at 1,075.
Memphis used a 17-6 run over a five-minute stretch to take a 43-35 lead after the opening half.
The Tigers started off slow against another outmatched Conference USA opponent. Memphis only made two of its first 10 shots from the floor, in an up-and-down first half that featured 11 ties or lead changes.
Dave Noel’s free throws with 6:06 left put UCF ahead 27-26, its last lead of the game.
“They do it off their defense. They have one of the best defenses in the country, but they don’t get credit for it,” UCF coach Kirk Speraw said. “Cal’s done a tremendous job of getting those guys to play hard and compete hard defensively. That’s why they are undefeated.”
A home date with No. 7 Tennessee on Feb. 23 might be the only real challenge left in Memphis’ bid for a perfect regular season. Calipari said his Tigers aren’t thinking about the Vols, but downplayed the game that’s less than two weeks away.
“Come on, we’re not even in the same league and they don’t want us in the SEC and they want the city of Memphis to die,” he joked.
The Tigers are making a case to become the first team to finish the regular season unbeaten since the 1990-91 UNLV team, which was later stunned by Duke in the Final Four.
Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said he knows the Tigers will be challenged, but still thinks they should win every time out.
“If we were to lose,” he said, “I’d be shocked.”