Sun Belt Classic Matchup

Memphis has two tough games on the schedule to end December, but its first game back from an 11-day layoff figures to be easy.

The second-ranked Tigers take on Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt Classic on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Memphis -26 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 90% of bets for this game have been placed on Memphis -26 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Memphis (7-0) is playing for the first time since a 62-58 overtime win over then-No. 24 Southern California on Dec. 4. After averaging wins of 18.7 points in their first six games, the Tigers struggled against the Trojans in their first real test of the year.

"I told them, 'This is very painful to sit here and be in this,'" coach John Calipari said he told his team after regulation.

Memphis, which came into the game averaging 85.7 points and shooting 49.6 percent from the field, were held to season lows in points and shooting percentage (37.3) against USC. Robert Dozier led the Tigers with 13 points and eight rebounds while leading scorer Chris-Douglas Roberts, who is averaging 20.1 points, was held to a season-low 10.

The highly anticipated matchup of freshmen - Memphis' Derrick Rose and USC guard O.J. Mayo - never materialized with Rose netting just nine points on 3-of-9 shooting while committing five turnovers.

"The hype sometimes you want to be that person but that comes with the territory," said Rose, who is averaging 15.9 points. "You want all the hype. You just go out and play hard and you'll get it but you've got to make sure you don't get too bigheaded when you get it."

Calipari also took some of the blame for his team's struggles with the Trojans.

"I was disappointed in a couple of things at the end of regulation," he said. "I got thoroughly outcoached this game, believe me, thoroughly outcoached."

But the win continued Memphis' best start since opening the 1995-96 season 8-0, and the Tigers appear poised to run their record to 10-0 with upcoming games against Middle Tennessee (3-5) and at Cincinnati (4-5). But Memphis opens a five-game homestand after Wednesday's game with difficult competition in No. 5 Georgetown and No. 21 Arizona to close out the calendar year.

Middle Tennessee, meanwhile, is coming off an 86-80 overtime win over Belmont on Wednesday that helped the Blue Raiders avoid a three-game losing streak.

Desmond Yates scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures. Theryn Hudson and Kevin Kanaskie each added 16, while Demetrius Green added 10 points and six rebounds.

Middle Tennessee also outscored Belmont 26-5 at the foul line.

Kanaskie, who is second on the team with 11.4 points per game, also had six rebounds and four assists despite playing with a sore hip flexor.

"I thought I'd put him in for a minute and take him back out just to prove the point," coach Kermit Davis told the Blue Raiders' official Web site, "but he just kept playing. For him to do that, to play 31 minutes, that kind of speaks to Kevin."

Middle Tennessee has not beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting then-No. 16 Florida State in the first round of the 1989 NCAA tournament in Nashville. The Blue Raiders have lost 17 straight games to Top 25 teams since the start of the 1996-97 season, with Memphis getting wins each of the last two seasons.

The Tigers extended their winning streak over the Blue Raiders to 11 games with an 86-46 rout last season that also was Calipari's 350th collegiate victory.

Memphis leads the overall series 26-14.

by Staff Writers - Email Us

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