Murray St.-Memphis Preview
Although Memphis has a game against a highly ranked powerhouse looming, facing a team that received only two votes in the latest AP poll may be just as dangerous.
The 21st-ranked Tigers look to survive their first test of the week Sunday when they host Murray State, which is looking to open 10-0 for the first time in 60 years.
Since losing two of three games at the Maui Invitational, Memphis (5-2) has reeled off three consecutive victories. In Tuesday's 71-54 win at Miami, the Tigers overcame a 1-of-12 performance from 3-point range by finishing with 42 points in the paint.
Sophomore Will Barton had career highs of 27 points and 14 rebounds, and converted three of Memphis' four alley-oop dunks.
"As long as they keep converting them, keep throwing them," coach Josh Pastner said.
Barton is one of the most explosive players in the country, averaging team highs of 19.4 points and 8.0 boards, and is part of a three-guard lineup with Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford. Jackson is second on the team with 12.4 points per game but is hoping to rebound from an off night Tuesday, when he had eight points on 1-of-7 shooting. Crawford is averaging 10.7 points and 5.0 assists in three games since becoming a starter.
Memphis' contest in Miami was its first true road game of the season, and it'll take to the road next Saturday to face fifth-ranked Louisville.
Before trying to hand the Cardinals their first loss, however, the Tigers will look to do the same to Murray State (9-0).
The Racers entered the weekend as one of only two undefeated teams that wasn't ranked - Indiana was the other - but are steadily gaining national attention. They won the Great Alaska Shootout, have road victories over UAB and Western Kentucky and defeated Dayton 75-58 last Sunday. Three days later, the Flyers beat No. 16 Alabama 74-62.
Murray State is seeking its first 10-0 start since winning 11 straight to open the 1951-52 season, but coach Steve Prohm knows visiting the Tigers will be its toughest test. Memphis has won 58 consecutive home games over unranked opponents since losing to Providence on Dec. 23, 2004.
"We're not going to come in and surprise them. They'll be very prepared," Prohm said. "Everything we've done now, we've got to raise it up a level."
That will be difficult to do in some regard, because Murray State has been so efficient in several areas.
The Racers made 9 of 15 3-pointers against Dayton and are shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc in their last four games. They're one of the top nation's top teams at shooting the 3 and defending it, making 43.1 percent while limiting opponents to 25.0 percent.
Isaiah Canaan leads Murray State with 20.3 points per game and is one of the country's best 3-point shooters, hitting 30 of 59 (50.8 percent). The junior guard is averaging 24.0 points in his last four games.
Donte Poole has connected on 18 of 45 (40.0 percent) from 3-point range and is second on the team in scoring at 13.0 points.
This will be the Racers' first game against a ranked opponent since losing to fifth-seeded Butler by two points in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. They defeated then-No. 21 Vanderbilt in the first round.
Murray State hasn't faced Memphis since losing 67-60 in 2002. The Tigers lead the all-time series 34-26.