Memphis Basketball Notes
Go Tigers! Robert Dozier and the Tigers will battle Houston on Wednesday.
Go Tigers!
Robert Dozier and the Tigers will battle Houston on Wednesday.
Go Tigers!

March 3, 2009

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The University of Memphis squad (26-3, 14-0 C-USA), ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 3 in ESPN/USA Today poll, plays its final regular season road game on Wednesday, Mar. 4 when it travels to Houston, Texas, to meet the Cougars (18-9, 9-5 C-USA). The Conference USA contest, to be televised by CBS College Sports, is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (CT) start.

The Tigers clinched their fourth-straight Conference USA regular season title with their victory over UAB on Feb. 26.

Memphis enters Wednesday's encounter on a 20-game win streak, which is currently the longest in the nation. The win streak began on Dec. 22 with an 87-49 victory over Drexel. The streak also includes wins over Cincinnati 60-45, Northeastern 80-48, Lamar 108-75, Marshall 80-57, UCF 73-66, Tulsa (away) 55-54, UAB (home) 81-68, Rice 80-52, Tennessee 54-52, East Carolina 85-64, Houston (home) 83-68, SMU (away) 79-66, No. 18/18 Gonzaga 68-50, Tulsa (home) 63-37, Southern Miss (away) 72-47, SMU (home) 90-47, UTEP 70-63, UAB (away) 71-60 and Southern Miss (home) 58-42.

Houston has won six of its last eight games entering Wednesday's encounter. The Cougars are still battling for a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament. After a Jan. 31 setback to Memphis, Houston won four-straight games and then has gone 2-2 in its last four outings. The Cougars defeated cross-town rival Rice 56-51 in their last game on Feb. 28.

Houston brings an 18-9 overall record and a 9-5 Conference USA mark into Wednesday's contest. The Cougars have won six of its last eight games, and are still battling for a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament. After a Jan. 31 setback to Memphis, Houston won four-straight games and then has gone 2-2 in its last four outings. The Cougars defeated cross-town rival Rice 56-51 in their last game on Feb. 28.

Four of the Cougars' five starters average double figures in the scoring column. Junior Aubrey Coleman leads the squad with a 19.7 average (third in C-USA). Kelvin Lewis (18.2 ppg; fourth in C-USA), Marcus Cousin (11.5 ppg) and Qa'rraan Calhoun (10.1 ppg) also average double digits for Houston. Cousin leads the Cougars on the glass at 8.7 rpg (third in C-USA), while Coleman is a close second at 7.9 rpg (fourth in C-USA). Desmond Wade is tops on the team with 100 assists (3.7 apg). Lewis (36.9 percent) and Calhoun (37.4 percent) are Houston's top threats from the arc.

Houston is shooting 42.7 percent from the floor, 32.3 percent from the three-point line and 75.2 percent from the free throw line. Opponents are out-rebounding the Cougars by a narrow margin of +0.9 boards per game (37.9-38.8).

Memphis head coach John Calipari was named a finalist for the 2008-09 Henry Iba Award, the U.S. Basketball Writers of America (USBWA) announced Mar. 2. The Iba Award is the USBWA's National Coach of the Year honor. Later that same day, Calipari was announced as a finalist for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year honor.

It is the second-straight year Calipari is a finalist for both awards. Last year, Calipari was named the 2007-08 Naismith National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career. Calipari and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski are the only two-time recipients of the Naismith National Coach of the Year honor.

In addition to Calipari, the coaches nominated for the Iba Award are: Mike Anderson (Missouri), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma), Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh), Mike Montgomery (California), Stew Morrill (Utah State), Matt Painter (Purdue), Oliver Purnell (Clemson), Bill Self (Kansas) and Brad Stevens (Butler).

Joining Calipari as finalists for the Phelan Award are: Jim Calhoun (Connecticut), Dixon (Pittsburgh), Darrin Horn (South Carolina), Trent Johnson (LSU), Lorenzo Romar (Washington), Self (Kansas), Stevens (Butler), Bruce Weber (Illinois) and Roy Williams (North Carolina).

With its 71-60 victory over UAB Feb. 26, Memphis clinched the 2008-09 Conference USA regular season title outright. The win gave the Tigers a 13-0 league mark.

With the win over UAB, the Tigers claimed the C-USA regular season title outright for a fourth-straight year. This is the first time in school history that the Memphis basketball program has won four-consecutive league titles outright.

The Conference USA regular season crown is Memphis' fourth-straight and fifth in the last six seasons. Memphis shared the 2003-04 C-USA regular season title and then claimed the league's outright championships in 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

By claiming this year's Conference USA regular season crown, Memphis joins former league member Cincinnati as the only two programs to win four-consecutive outright C-USA regular season titles.

The Bearcats won four-straight C-USA outright regular season titles from 1997-2000. The Tigers have tied the feat, winning the last four C-USA regular season championships.

Along with winning the Conference USA regular season title with their Feb. 26 win over UAB, the Tigers also claimed the top seed in the C-USA Tournament, which is scheduled for FedExForum Mar. 11-14. As the top seed, Memphis receives a first-round bye in the league tournament and begins play in the quarterfinals on Mar. 12. It is the fourth-straight year the Tigers earned a first-round bye.

The scoreboard operator better get his fingers ready because the points could pile up when Memphis and Houston take the floor Wednesday. The teams are the top two scoring offenses in C-USA.

The Cougars lead the league in scoring offense at 77.2 ppg. Memphis is second in Conference USA in scoring offense at 75.4 ppg. The teams also are at the top in scoring margin in C-USA, with Memphis first (+16.8) and Houston second (+9.4).

While the Houston and Memphis offenses have been lighting up the scoreboard, both teams have played solid defense -- especially in the area of field goal percentage defense. The Tigers lead C-USA in field goal percentage defense at 37.1 percent, while the Cougars are third at 40.9 percent.

For the Tigers, it will come on the glass. Memphis is second in Conference USA in rebound margin at +5.3. Houston ranks 10th in the league in rebound margin at -0.9.

For the Cougars, their advantage comes at the charity stripe. Houston is first in the league from the free throw line at 75.2 percent, while Memphis is 10th at 69.2 percent.

Something's gotta give. Entering Wednesday's game, Memphis and Houston are first and second, respectively, in Conference USA in forcing opponents to turn the ball over. The Tigers force a league-high 16.4 miscues, while the Cougars are second at 15.8 forced turnovers per game.

However, both squads also do great jobs at protecting the ball. Houston leads C-USA in the fewest turnovers per game at 9.9. Memphis is not far behind, averaging 12.8 miscues per game (fifth in C-USA).

In the Jan. 31 meeting (83-68 Tiger win), Memphis forced 13 Houston turnovers. The Cougars forced 17 Tiger miscues.

Wednesday's game is a homecoming for Memphis assistant coach Josh Pastner. The first-year Tiger assistant is from Kingwood, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

The son of legendary Houston Hoops AAU coach Hal Pastner, Josh played and coached Houston Hoops while in high school. He continued to coach the Houston Hoops squad during his college days and led the team to the 1999 Nike National summer championship and 2000 Global World championship.

For Memphis' Robert Dozier, his last trip to Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion was a memorable one. The 6-foot-9 forward netted a then career-high 21 points in an 89-77 Tigers' victory.

The Lithonia, Ga., native scored his 21 points on 9-of-13 field goals, 1-of-3 treys and 2-of-2 free throws. The nine field goals made are a career high.

This year, Dozier set a new career high in scoring with 23 points in a 63-37 victory over Tulsa on Feb. 11.

It's something fans everywhere do -- compare teams from year to year. And it's no different for Tiger Nation, especially when asked about the defense of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 squads. Well, here's the comparison:

	2007-08	Stat	2008-09
(Through 29 Games)

12 Opponents Held Under 60 Pts 14
61.7 Scoring Defense 58.6
38.2 FG Pct. Defense 37.1
30.8 3-pt. FG Defense 30.5
+6.7 Rebound Margin +5.3
6.4 Blocks/Game 6.3
8.7 Steals/Game 9.2
16.4 TO Forced/Game 16.4

The Tigers have been tough on the defensive end of the floor since Dec. 22 which has fueled their 20-game win streak. But, Memphis turned up its defensive intensity a notch in the last seven games, and the following details that:

Opp	FG Pct.	3P Pct.	Reb	Blk	Stl
USM 29.4 00.0 +15 4 7
UAB 36.1 28.0 +9 5 6
UTEP 40.7 33.3 +5 6 7
SMU 30.9 37.5 +1 10 11
USM 37.5 16.7 +9 4 4
Tulsa 35.9 22.2 -3 6 16
Gonzaga 36.7 26.7 +14 5 7
Pct./Avg. 35.4 26.7 +7.1 5.7 8.3
** opponent scoring avg. 49.4

While the Tigers have enjoyed success in the John Calipari era in the month of January (63-10; .863 winning percentage), February hasn't been too bad either. Under Calipari, Memphis has a 55-12 record (.821 winning percentage) in February.

Last year, the Tigers posted a 7-1 record in February, and the program's February win streak reached 20 straight before a Feb. 23, 2008, setback to Tennessee. Also included in that 55-12 overall mark is a 16-game winning streak in the month of February from 2001-02 through 2003-04.

John Calipari's teams always improve as the season progresses toward March, which is the month all college teams play for. And, Calipari's teams are ready to play in March and that can be seen in his career record in the month.

Calipari has an 85-27 record (.759 winning percentage) in games played in March. Last year, Memphis posted a perfect 10-0 record in the month of March.

In his previous 16 years as a collegiate head coach, Calipari guided his teams to 15 postseasons (10 NCAA, five NIT). He led UMass to the 1996 NCAA Final Four and Memphis to the 2008 NCAA title game and 2002 NIT championship.

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



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