After starting strong on the road in American Athletic Conference play, Memphis has hit a slight rough stretch.
The No. 22 Tigers can avoid a third straight AAC road defeat Thursday night by posting another decisive victory over a Rutgers team that will try for a fifth time this season to beat a ranked opponent.Memphis (19-6, 8-4) won its first four league road games, and the closest margin came in a 73-67 victory over then-No. 12 Louisville on Jan. 9. However, the Tigers' 16-game overall conference road winning streak ended with an 87-72 loss at SMU to open February and was followed by an 86-61 overtime defeat at then-No. 24 Connecticut on Saturday.Joe Jackson had a season-high 24 points and Memphis shot 54.8 percent, but the Tigers went to the foul line nine times compared to 36 for UConn. The Huskies made 29 of those attempts to overcome a 39.3 percent shooting performance.The loss snapped a three-game overall win streak for the Tigers, who have shot 50.9 percent during a stretch of seven wins in nine games."They're definitely a strong team with their guards," UConn star Shabazz Napier said. "Joe Jackson does a great job. They don't seem to get tired."Jackson is averaging 17.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting (45 of 80) with 6.3 assists over the last eight games. He scored 16 and added a season-high eight assists, while Austin Nichols had 18 points in a 101-69 home rout of Rutgers (10-16, 4-9) on Feb. 4.Memphis shot a season-high 59.0 percent, including 12 of 19 from 3-point range, forced 17 turnovers and outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 40-29 in that first-ever meeting between the schools."They're bigger than we are," Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan said after his team was outscored 44-28 in the paint in that contest. "They're tougher, and they're better. They almost shocked us with their physicality."That loss at Memphis opened a four-game stretch that featured three Top-25 opponents. Rutgers followed it with a 79-69 win at South Florida, then allowed 52.7 percent shooting while losing to then-No. 23 SMU and at then-No. 13 Louisville by a combined 60 points.The Scarlet Knights shot 35.4 percent against the Cardinals, including 5 of 20 from 3-point range, and committed 18 turnovers Sunday while the reigning national champions went 16 of 30 from beyond the arc to hand them a 102-54 defeat."It's one loss and our guys have to believe that," Jordan said. "This loss cannot devastate you."We need to play with more confidence and stay together. (Memphis is) going to pressure you. They are going to body you up. They are going to be physical like they were down there. We have to answer the bell physically and intelligently."Guard Myles Mack (15.6 points per game) and forward Kadeem Jack (14.2), Rutgers' top two scorers, each had 10 versus Louisville. Jack scored 12 and was the only Scarlet Knight in double figures at Memphis. Mack had nine points with five turnovers in that contest.Rutgers has dropped 12 straight games against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 24 Pittsburgh 67-62 on Jan. 5, 2013.