Memphis-Xavier Preview


Memphis will take a break from its pursuit of a perfect conference record to focus on extending one of the nation's longest active win streaks.

The 19th-ranked Tigers look to win their 19th in a row and help coach Josh Pastner record his 100th career victory Tuesday night at Xavier.

Playing its final season in Conference USA, Memphis (24-3) wrapped up at least a share of the league title Saturday with an 89-73 victory over Southern Mississippi. Pastner gave his team until the start of this week to savor the program's eighth C-USA regular-season championship.

"We are going to enjoy this until Monday and then we are going to focus on a well-coached and high-level team in Xavier on Tuesday," said Pastner, whose team will play in the Big East beginning next season.

Memphis has earned 13 victories in conference play during its win streak - the fifth-longest in school history - and hasn't faced a non-league foe since beating Harvard 60-50 at home Jan. 19. But the Tigers have also won 11 straight on the road dating back to last February, going 7-0 in opponents' arenas this season.

Their 18 consecutive wins overall are tied with Akron for the longest current run in Division I.

"To win (18 in a row) is hard. You don't take that for granted," said Pastner, who has coached 131 games and is primed to become the second-fastest Memphis coach to 100 wins. Bob Vanatta needed 129 games, while John Calipari took 145.

Their next opponent had a five-game home win streak snapped with a 75-71 loss to then-No. 24 Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday. Xavier (15-11) shot 54.8 percent for the game and built a 17-point lead early in the second half, but the loss of point guard Dee Davis to a head injury contributed to the team's unraveling.

Freshman shooting guard Semaj Christon was pressed into running the offense and finished with 10 of Xavier's season-high 22 turnovers. Christon is the Musketeers' leading scorer with 15.0 points per game but has one of the nation's highest turnover averages at 3.9.

"This one definitely stings," said senior guard Brad Redford, who tied Davis for the scoring lead with 15 points. "We're going to have to move on very quickly, though. We've got a good team coming in on Tuesday."

With Davis' status unknown, the Musketeers are looking to avenge last season's loss at Memphis and bolster their slim hopes of earning a 12th NCAA tournament berth in 13 seasons.

Xavier led by 11 with 6:16 to go Feb. 4, 2012, but lost 72-68 after a 17-1 Tigers run. Current Memphis scoring leader Joe Jackson paced four players in double figures with 14 points - going 12 of 12 from the free-throw line - and added eight assists.

The Musketeers also had four players in double figures during that defeat, but none are still on the team. Redford scored six points in 18 minutes.

Xavier still leads the all-time series 6-2 and has won all three home games. Memphis last visited during the 1966-67 season.

The Musketeers are 1-5 in their last six games against ranked teams, but they've won three of four at home versus Top 25 opponents, with two of those contests going into double overtime.