Memphis Basketball Notes
Go Tigers! Wesley Witherspoon and the Tigers play at Rice on Saturday.
Go Tigers!
Wesley Witherspoon and the Tigers play at Rice on Saturday.
Go Tigers!

Jan. 15, 2010

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Tigers On TV/Radio/Web
Television: Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS)/Comcast Channel 6 (Randy Mcllvoy, play-by-play; Brian Oliver, color analyst)
Radio: WREC 600 AM (Dave Woloshin, play-by-play; Matt Dillon, color analyst; Forrest Goodman, studio host)
Web: Game to be streamed live on Memphis athletics web site at via All-Access (must register to view game)

The University of Memphis squad (12-4, 2-0 C-USA) takes to the road again for the second time in a week on Saturday, Jan. 16 when the Tigers travel to Houston, Texas, to face Rice (6-10, 0-3 C-USA) in a Conference USA encounter. The game, to be aired on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS), is slated for a 7 p.m. (CT) start.

The Tigers enter Saturday's contest having won 10 of their last 13 outings. In that 13-game stretch, Memphis posted wins over Tennessee Tech 92-59, Central Arkansas 81-49, Oakland 77-46, Arkansas State 74-55, Montana State 76-51, Arkansas-Little Rock 83-71, Southeast Missouri State 87-57, IUPUI 87-67, Houston Baptist 93-52, Southern Miss 59-57 and East Carolina 77-57. The Tigers' three setbacks in the last 13 games were to UMass 73-72 in Boston, Mass., No. 14/14 Tennessee 66-59 at FedExForum and No. 7/7 Syracuse 74-57 at the Carrier Dome.

The Tigers' only other loss was another narrow one to then-No. 1/1 Kansas 57-55 in St. Louis, Mo. The Kansas, Tennessee Tech, Central Arkansas and Oakland games were part of the 2009 Hall of Fame Showcase classic.

Memphis, picked to finish between second and fourth in Conference USA in most preseason polls, returns only one starter and six letterwinners from last year's squad that won 33 games (33-4 record) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament West Region semifinal (Sweet Sixteen). En route to the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers swept the Conference USA regular season and tournament crowns.

Rice has lost four straight and six of its last seven entering Saturday's game. The Owls dropped their first three league games with setbacks to Houston, UCF and Tulane. Rice's lone victory in the last seven games was a 75-62 win over McNeese State on Dec. 29.

Rice brings a 6-10 overall record and a 0-3 Conference USA mark into Saturday's league encounter. The Owls have lost four straight and six of their last seven, including their first three league games with setbacks to Houston, UCF and Tulane. Rice's lone victory in the last seven games was a 75-62 win over McNeese State on Dec. 29.

The freshman tandem of Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi pace the Owls' offense. Jackson leads the team with an 11.6 scoring average, while Kazemi is second at 10.0 ppg. Kazemi leads Rice on the glass with a 7.9 rebounding average, and Lawrence Ghoram follows at 4.0 rpg. Jackson is tops on the squad with 45 assists (2.8 apg). Ghoram is the Owls' top three-point threat, hitting 45.8 percent from the arc. Connor Frizzelle is shooting 39.4 percent from the three-point line.

Rice is shooting 40.2 percent from the field, 32.8 percent from the three-point line and 69 percent from the charity stripe. Opponents are out-rebounding the Owls by a narrow average margin of 0.1 (35.3-35.4).

The Tigers have an all-time record of 165-55 (.750 winning percentage) in Conference USA play. Memphis posted double-digit league wins in 11 of its previous 14 seasons in Conference USA, including a school-record and league-record tying 16 games in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Last year's 16 C-USA victories tied the Tiger record for most league wins in a season in school history. Prior to the previous three campaigns (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), Memphis' most C-USA wins were 13 on two occasions in 2002-03 (13-3) and 2005-06 (13-1).

Memphis won its first outright C-USA regular season title in 2005-06, and followed that with out-right regular season crowns in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09. Memphis also tied for the C-USA regular season crown in 2003-04 (12-4 record) and 1995-96 (11-3).

Memphis also won three National Division titles in 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2002-03, and captured two league White Division championships in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

While Memphis has had a lot of success in December since 1999-2000, January has proven to be a better month for the Tigers. Since 1999-2000, the Tigers have an impressive 69-15 record (.821 winning percentage) in the month of January. The Tigers had won 35 straight January games prior to their Jan. 6 loss at No. 7/7 Syracuse (74-57). Prior to that setback, Memphis' last January loss was to Texas on Jan. 2, 2006 (69-58 loss).

Entering league play in 2009-10, the Tigers still have two streaks going in Conference USA.

The Tigers have won 51-straight regular season Conference USA games and 63-straight C-USA overall contests, including the league's postseason tournaments. The last time Memphis suffered a setback to a C-USA foe was Mar. 2, 2006, when the Tigers fell at UAB 80-74 -- a span of 1,415 days.

The 63-game win streak (includes C-USA Tournaments) is the longest in C-USA history. The 51-game regular-season win streak is also tops in C-USA history, moving past Cincinnati's 21-game regular season win streak from 1998-99 through 2000-01.

Memphis' Conference USA win streaks (63-game overall; 51-game regular season) are not only tops in the league's history, but also are among the best in NCAA Division I history. The following shows where the Tigers' C-USA regular season and overall (including tournament) win streaks stand:

Conference Win Streak
(Regular Season Only)
Team/Conf. Years Streak

Memphis/C-USA 2006-pres. 51
Kentucky/SEC 1950-54 51
UCLA/Pac-8 1970-74 50
Penn/Ivy 1992-96 48
UCLA/Pac-8 1966-69 45
West Virginia/SoCon 1956-60 44
Kentucky/SEC 1945-50 44
Davidson/SoCon 2007-09 43
UNLV/Big West 1990-93 40
UCLA/Pac-8 1963-66 36

Conference Win Streak*
(Regular Season+Tournament)
Team/Conf. Years Streak

Kentucky/SEC 1945-50 64
Memphis/C-USA 2006-pres. 63
West Virginia/SoCon 1955-60 59
Davidson/SoCon 2007-09 49
UNLV/Big West 1990-93 46
* UCLA is not on this list because they did not play a postseason league tournament during those seasons

There will be a little emotion on the Tigers' bench when Memphis plays at Rice Saturday. Tiger assistant coach Willis Wilson makes a return to his alma mater where he also served as an assistant coach and head coach for the Owl program.

Wilson was a four-year letterwinner for the Owls from 1978-82 and served as the team's co-captain his senior campaign. He served two stints as an assistant coach from 1985-86 and 1987-91, and then took over the reins of the Rice program in 1992 and stayed as the head coach until 2008. He guided the Owls to three NIT appearances in his tenure.

When Memphis assistant coach Willis Wilson looks to the other bench on Saturday, he will see five familiar faces -- former players that he coached in his final season as the Owls' head coach in 2007-08. The five Rice players are seniors Lawrence Ghoram and Cory Pflieger and juniors Bryan Beasley, Suleiman Braimoh and Trey Stanton.

In addition to assistant coach Willis Wilson's return to his alma mater, Saturday's game is also a homecoming for Memphis head coach Josh Pastner. The Tigers' 32-year-old mentor calls Kingwood, Texas, home, which is a suburb of Houston. In fact, Pastner grew up fewer than 25 miles from the Rice University campus.

As a high school and college student, Pastner coached the Houston Hoops summer AAU program.

Well, not to the city of Houston, but back home to the state of Texas for this Tiger. Freshman D.J. Stephens is from Killeen, Texas, which is just under 200 miles northwest of Houston. Stephens is the lone Tiger player from the state of Texas. The 6-foot-5 forward/guard has seen action in all 16 games this season.

Yes, Saturday's game is the first meeting of Josh Pastner and Ben Braun as head coaches, but the two have a history in their days in the Pac-10 Conference. Braun served as the California Bears' head coach from 1996-2008, and during that same time, Pastner was an Arizona Wildcat (first as a player, then staff member and assistant coach).

In those 12 years in Pac-10 play, Braun's Bears and Pastner's Wildcats met a total of 26 times, and Arizona won 22 of those encounters (22-4 record). In Pastner's time as an assistant coach at Arizona (2002-03 to 2007-08), the Wildcats were 11-2 against Braun and his California squads.

Ironically, Braun's first victory over Arizona in the 1996-97 season (79-77) was the Wildcats' final setback of that campaign. After that loss to California, the Wildcats won six-straight NCAA Tournament games to claim the national title.

No matter the outcome of Saturday's game or future encounters Memphis plays in Space City USA, the city of Houston will always hold a special place in the hearts of Tiger Nation. That fondness for Houston comes from the 2008 NCAA Tournament when the Tigers won the South Region at Reliant Stadium.

Memphis started its run to the NCAA title game in Little Rock, Ark., with the tournament's first two rounds. Then, the Tigers moved on to Houston, where they defeated Michigan State and Texas en route to the Final Four.

Earlier this season, Memphis played Arkansas-Little Rock in the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, the site of the Tigers' first and second round victories in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Well, we won't know for sure until game time, but a couple of former Tigers may be in attendance at Saturday's Memphis-Rice game. Joey Dorsey, one of Tiger Nation's most beloved players, was called up to the Houston Rockets from the NBDL earlier this week. The Rockets play at home Friday and Monday.

Also, Chance McGrady may pay a visit to see the Tigers play. McGrady, who lives outside Houston in Sugar Land, wore the Blue and Gray from 2006-09 and is a member of the winningest four-year class in NCAA Division I history with 137 victories (137-14 record).

It may not make much sense, but here's the explanation. Since Conference USA realigned for the 2005-06 campaign, Memphis is making its third trip to play at Rice. However, it is the Tigers' first time to play in the Tudor Fieldhouse, the newly-renovated version of the former Autry Court.

In 2005-06, Memphis played the Owls on their home floor at Autry Court. Two years later (2007-08), the Tigers and Owls met at Reliant Arena because of the on-going renovations to Autry Court. So, Saturday's game is Memphis' first at Tudor Fieldhouse, which opened for the 2008-09 season.

Doneal Mack entered the 2009-10 campaign with his sights set on becoming a part of the Tiger 1,000-point club. The 6-foot-5 guard crossed that goal off his list in the Tigers' Jan. 13 win over East Carolina.

Mack entered that game with 992 career points and needed only eight to reach the 1,000-point plateau. The milestone moment came 2:08 into the second half when Mack canned a trey for his eighth point of the contest and the 1,000th point of his career. The Charlotte, N.C., native finished the contest with 15 points and now has 1,007 career points.

Mack is the 46th member of the Tiger 1,000-point club and is tied for the No. 44 spot on the Memphis career scoring list.

It was just a matter of time, and now that time has come. Tiger Nation has been waiting for Wesley Witherspoon to become a factor, and he has done so in recent games for Memphis.

In the last eight contests, Witherspoon averaged 13.0 points and 4.1 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 forward shot 47.4 percent from the field, 47.6 percent from the arc and 83.3 percent from the free throw line in those eight outings.

The Atlanta, Ga., native scored double figures in seven of the eight games, including a career-high 22 points versus East Carolina Jan. 13. He also blocked a career-best four shots versus Tennessee Dec. 31.

For more notes on the Memphis-Rice game, click on pdf link at the top of the page.



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