By CHRIS ALTRUDA, Tuscaloosa (AL) News
February 07, 2007
Memphis returns to the scene of its lone conference defeat since the start of last season Thursday when it plays at UAB.
Since Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida defected to the Big East from Conference USA following the 2004-05 season, the eighth-ranked Tigers (19-3, 9-0 C-USA) have had few, if any, challengers to their league supremacy.
Coach John Calipari's team has compiled a 22-1 conference mark since realignment, outscoring opponents by nearly 17 points per game and recording double-digit victories on 18 occasions.
While the Tigers chase a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year, the gap between themselves and the rest of the conference is more pronounced this season. Every other C-USA team has at least three conference losses.
Memphis has won its nine league games by an average of 17.5 points and limited C-USA rivals to 58.7 points per game.
Last season's bid for a perfect record in Conference USA was stopped with an 80-74 loss at UAB (11-11, 3-5) on March 2 that ended a 15-game winning streak. The Tigers went nearly eight minutes without a point in the second half, were held to 36 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers.
It was a much different story when these teams met in Memphis this season, with the Tigers taking a 16-point lead by halftime en route to a 79-54 victory on Jan. 16. The Blazers were outrebounded 42-22, and failed to get close in the second half despite Memphis being without leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts for most of the game because of an ankle injury.
Douglas-Roberts is averaging 15.2 points, and he's led Memphis to outstanding performances in its last two games while totaling 38 points and shooting 16-of-23 from the field.
The Tigers matched a season high with 15 3-pointers in their 88-52 rout of SMU on Saturday, extending their current winning streak to 11 games.
Freshman Doneal Mack made all five of his 3-point attempts and finished with 17 points as Memphis picked apart SMU's zone defense.
``We just run and skip the ball and do a lot of things to disrupt their zone because we don't want them to get set and get comfortable,'' said Tigers guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who added 15 points. ``Our man (offense) is the reason they went to a zone because we were driving so much and spaced out. When they go to a zone now, we are still spaced out, and we're getting shots we want.''
Memphis shot a season-high 60.7 percent from the field Saturday after hitting 57.9 percent in an 87-65 win over Central Florida last Wednesday. The team was held under 40 percent in each of its previous three games.
UAB is starting a three-game homestand trying to end a funk that has seen it lose four of five.
The Blazers are coming off a 61-54 defeat at Marshall on Saturday in which they nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit, only to be done in by 33 percent shooting.
``Defensively, to hold Marshall to 61 points on its home floor is exactly what we want to do and should be good enough to win ball games,'' UAB coach Mike Davis said. ``But our problem is we are not a good shooting team. We have too many mental lapses during the game and it always comes back to hurt us in the end. That's exactly what happened tonight.''
The Blazers likely need point guard and leading scorer Paul Delaney to find his offensive rhythm to have any chance of an upset. Delaney averages a team-high 16.2 points, but has failed to reach double figures in his last three games.
Delaney was held to 12 points in the first meeting with Memphis.
The Tigers lead the all-time series 23-10.