MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—It may not have been pretty, but the Memphis Tigers are perfect for another season in Conference USA.
The fifth-ranked Tigers closed out the regular season Saturday by extending several streaks, including their third straight undefeated season in C-USA, with a 74-47 victory over Tulane.
Robert Dozier had 16 points and 12 rebounds as three Memphis players recorded double-doubles, and the Tigers extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 22 games.
The win also gave the Tigers 58 straight wins, including the postseason, in C-USA. Seniors Dozier, Antonio Anderson and Chance McGrady have won 132 games in their four-year careers at Memphis.
“That’s something you don’t dream of,” Dozier said.
At times, Memphis struggled in the game, partly because of the Senior Day ceremonies, and perhaps because they again were moving through the conference schedule without many challenges.
“I wouldn’t say we were bored, but sometimes we tend to lack focus in games,” said reserve guard Roburt Sallie, who finished with 11 points, including three 3-pointers in the second half. “We know we have to maintain what we need to do to beat teams.”
Tyreke Evans had 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Shawn Taggart added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (28-3, 16-0).
Kevin Sims had 14 points for the Green Wave (13-16, 7-9). Kris Richard, Tulane’s second-leading scorer with an 11.2 average, had four points on 2-of-12 shooting as the Green Wave shot 30 percent in the game.
“The problem that Memphis presents to everyone in our conference is that we’re not used to playing against two guys being 6-9 (Dozier) and 6-10 (Taggart) with long arms,” Tulane coach Dave Dickerson said. “Evans is probably the best player in our conference and had 10 rebounds and got a double-double.”
Tulane kept it interesting as the Tigers played uninspired until midway in the second half. But Memphis rallied when the Green Wave got near, closing the game on a 27-4 run. Memphis coach John Calipari knew the Tigers would face Tulane’s best since the Green Wave had not played in a week.
“I kind of figured they’d come in with lively legs, and they did,” Calipari said. “Then they hung around.”
Tulane missed seven of its first eight shots, but Memphis was also a bit out of sync. At one point, out of a timeout, the Tigers coaching staff sent six players on the court leading to a technical foul.
Dozier said there may have been a bit of hangover from the pregame festivities, where the seniors and their families were honored.
“Everything I did felt kind of heavy,” Dozier said. “It felt like you had something extra on your back. But once guys settled down, we got into a little flow, we just took off.”
The Memphis defense caused problems for the Green Wave, allowing the Tigers to build to a 35-26 halftime lead. Taggart, who got on the boards early for second-chance opportunities, had 12 points in the half, missing only one of his six shots
Memphis missed five shots to open the half and Tulane went on a 7-0 run to get within 35-33 in the opening 4 minutes.
The Tigers went on a 23-2 run midway through the half. Dozier hit a 3-pointer, and Anderson scored four straight points to start the rally, and by the time Sallie connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key, the Tigers had extended the lead to 65-45 with 3:47 left.
Dozier said he was never worried.
“I saw that we were struggling,” he said. “But I’ve been here four years, and, with us, we always find a way to pick it up.”
But it was the latest example of a Memphis team that has let opponents hang around until the second half. Houston was in the game with Memphis before losing 69-60 on Wednesday, and several other recent games have been close. Calipari wants to get his team out of the mind-set as they move into the postseason.
“What I’m worried about is in the last few games now, we’ve played just well enough to win,” Calipari said. “You seen them huddle out there with 9 minutes left, and they’re telling each other, as a team: ‘OK. Let’s go.’
“You can’t do that against a really good team. You’ll be down by 20, or you’ll be really close, and a really good team will continue to make plays.”