After bouncing back from a tough loss, coach Josh Pastner would like Memphis to find its outside touch before its inaugural run through the American Athletic Conference.
The 17th-ranked Tigers seek their 18th straight home win Saturday when they face Jackson State in their final tune-up before the start of league play.
Memphis (8-2) allowed No. 13 Florida to shoot 51.9 percent in a 77-75 loss at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17, but the Tigers got their defense back on track against Southeast Missouri State last Saturday. They held the Redhawks to 45.0 percent shooting and 20 points below their season scoring average in a 77-65 home win.
The Tigers' tenacious full-court press forced 19 turnovers which led to 24 points.
"I'm glad that we put it in," Pastner said. "There's going to be different times that we need it. Sometimes we don't need it. The press helped us win the game."
Pastner's squad ranks in the top 10 nationally with a plus-5.5 turnover margin while forcing 17.8 per game. Memphis also has done a good job taking care of the ball with a total of 16 turnovers in its last two contests.
The Tigers' opportunistic defense poses a challenge for Jackson State, which averages 15.1 turnovers and had a combined 34 despite winning its last two contests.
After dropping seven of its first nine, Jackson State (4-7) pulled out a 57-51 victory at Evansville on Dec. 14 before beating Louisiana 73-70 at home on Dec. 19. Julysses Nobles, averaging a team-high 16.8 points, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left against the Ragin' Cajuns.
"We felt like this game would give us some confidence going into the Memphis game," coach Wayne Brent said. "Any time you play a team like Memphis that's ranked in the top 15, you're facing a very explosive team."
Memphis, though, hasn't been able to get going from the perimeter of late. Though the Tigers finished with a 50.0 field-goal percentage overall against Southeast Missouri State, they shot a season-worst 2 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Joe Jackson, leading the team with 15.3 points per game, scored 16 against the Redhawks but missed all three of his 3-point attempts. The senior guard is just 5 for 24 from beyond the arc after making 44.7 percent in 2012-13.
"Our main shooters have to be able to put the ball in the basket," Pastner said. "We cannot afford to shoot the ball how we did."
Set to begin play in the AAC at South Florida on New Year's Eve, the Tigers may not have it easy against a Jackson State team that has limited opponents to 10 of 38 shooting from 3-point range in consecutive wins.
Memphis forward Shaq Goodwin helped pick up the offense against the Redhawks with 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
The sophomore had averaged 18.3 points while going 20 of 30 from the field over a three-game stretch before he was continually double-teamed by the Gators and finished with seven points on 1-of-4 shooting.
"It's important for Shaq to continue to be at a high level," Pastner said. "He's important for us."
The Tigers have won 27 in a row at home against unranked opponents. They've also won 14 of 15 all-time meetings following a 70-45 victory over visiting Jackson State on Nov. 28, 2011.