South Florida-Memphis Preview
With that first American Athletic Conference home victory finally under its belt, Memphis is poised to confidently move forward.
Hoping to build on that needed home win, the No. 23 Tigers try to continue their mastery of a visiting South Florida team that’s facing its third consecutive ranked opponent Sunday.
Memphis (14-4, 4-2) was able to avoid an 0-3 home league start by building a 17-point, first-half lead and shooting a season-high 58.9 percent in an 82-59 rout of Houston on Wednesday. The Tigers shot 38.4 percent while losing to previously unranked Cincinnati and Connecticut by a combined 26 points in their first two AAC home contests.
"It was about energy. We’ve got to have energy," coach Josh Pastner said. "We are a very good basketball team when we play with great energy."
Shaq Goodwin scored 20 and Joe Jackson added 18 with seven assists as Memphis overcame 15 turnovers by outscoring the Cougars 48-36 in the paint.
"Our turnovers still need to see some improvement, but overall, a good win for the Tigers," Pastner said. "When you lose at home, or any loss, it kills you inside. A win, on the other hand, is like no other for our team and me. There is no better feeling than the thrill of victory."
Memphis experienced that thrill after an 88-73 win at South Florida (10-9, 1-5) on Dec. 31 in both teams’ initial AAC contest. Geron Johnson scored 19, and Jackson and Michael Dixon Jr. each had 18. The Tigers led by 16 at the break and shot 50.8 percent to record their sixth straight series victory in the schools’ first meeting since March 2005.
"They play relentless every possession, every play," Bulls leading scorer Victor Rudd said after that meeting.
The Tigers have won 13 of 14 overall against the Bulls, whose only win during that span came at Memphis, 75-74 on Jan. 18, 2003. That marked the Tigers’ only loss to South Florida in 11 meetings in Memphis.
South Florida has averaged 51.7 points and shot 35.8 percent while losing its last three overall by an average margin of 21.0 points. The Bulls fell 61-54 to then-No. 19 Cincinnati last Saturday and put up little fight during an 86-47 home loss to No. 12 Louisville on Wednesday.
The Bulls committed a season-high 23 turnovers that the reigning national champions turned into 35 points and helped them shoot 50.8 percent.
"(Louisville) dictated, and did whatever (it) wanted to do," South Florida coach Stan Heath said.
"We’ve got to be a team that’s going to fight and give a lot more resistance than what we gave (Wednesday)."
Rudd averages 14.8 points, but finished with six Wednesday and has totaled 23 on 10-of-34 (29.4 percent) shooting in the last three games. He scored 17 against Memphis.
South Florida’s 6-foot-10 freshman John Egbunu averages 7.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, but set season highs with 20 and 14 boards against the Tigers.
Allowing an average of 82.0 points while going 0-4 against ranked opponents this season, the Bulls have dropped 13 straight versus Top 25 teams since a 58-51 win at then-No. 19 Louisville on Feb. 29, 2012.