Two days after securing a school-record 14th straight 20-win season, Memphis has a very good chance to surpass that total.
Following a pair of tough road games, the No. 22 Tigers return home Saturday night to face a last-place Temple squad that’s winless on the road in the American Athletic Conference.
Memphis (20-6, 9-4) did not trail during Thursday’s 64-59 win at Rutgers but didn’t have an easy time, committing 16 turnovers and never leading by more than 11 against the sub-.500 Scarlet Knights. Michael Dixon Jr. had 15 points off the bench to pace the Tigers, who held Rutgers to 37.5 percent shooting and bounced back from an 86-81 overtime loss at then-No. 24 Connecticut last Saturday.
"You don’t take 20 wins for granted," said coach Josh Pastner, 126-40 in five seasons at Memphis. "It’s not a birthright, it is a special thing. It’s a beautiful thing."
The Tigers prevailed Thursday despite Joe Jackson, averaging a team-high 14.8 points, scoring 11 on 3-of-12 shooting and committing four turnovers.
"Joe doesn’t normally have off nights," Dixon said. "Joe’s a good player, he’s been playing well for us this season."
The Tigers have not dropped consecutive games this season, following each of their previous five defeats with at least two straight victories.
"You can’t tell the future but we try not to get (on) losing streaks," guard Geron Johnson said. "Losing is contagious and winning is too. We like to stay on the contagious side of winning."
Memphis has shot 52.0 percent during a six-game home winning streak that it would appear to be in good position to extend this weekend.
The Tigers won 79-69 at Temple on Jan. 11 as Shaq Goodwin set season highs with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Dixon scored 15.
Losers in 15 of 18, the Owls (7-18, 2-11) have averaged 65.3 points on 38.9 percent shooting while going 0-6 away from home in AAC play. Their current seven-game road losing streak is the program’s longest in a single season in 87 years, and two shy of the school’s worst overall since a nine-game slide covered two seasons from 1974-76.
Temple, owner of the AAC’s worst overall record and tied with Central Florida for last place, is in the midst of playing five straight ranked opponents for the first time in school history. It lost 82-58 to then-No. 13 Louisville last Friday, but bounced back to snap a four-game skid with a 71-64 upset of then-No. 23 SMU two days later.
The Owls, however, shot 33.9 percent and equaled a season high with 16 turnovers in Thursday’s 68-55 loss to No. 21 Connecticut.
"I think, we’ve looked at it, we will have played 12 times against teams that have been in the Top 25 at some point during the course of the year," said coach Fran Dunphy, whose team is 1-6 against ranked foes and has a rematch with No. 11 Louisville next Thursday.
"But that’s what you want. You want that challenge and we’ve been presented with that. It’s been a tough road to hoe but we’ve got more in store."
Dalton Pepper averages a team-leading 17.1 points and had 24 against Memphis last month. He was held to 11 on 4-of-18 shooting versus UConn.