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March 1, 2008

Eagles host No. 2 Memphis

Memphis might not have to wait long to regain the No. 1 ranking it held for five weeks.

With the nation's current No. 1 team having already lost this week, the second-ranked Tigers could move back into the top spot in the poll with a win at Southern Mississippi on Saturday when the teams meet in a Conference USA matchup.

Memphis (27-1, 13-0) won 82-67 over Tulsa at home Wednesday in its first game since falling from the top spot in the poll after a 66-62 home loss to then-No. 2 Tennessee last Saturday.

"We just needed to play another game and get it off our chests," said forward Robert Dozier, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "It's behind us now. You can't worry about it. It's one game we lost. There's a bigger tournament at the end of the season."

While the Tigers were able to rebound, the Volunteers were unable to build of that victory and lost 72-69 at No. 18 Vanderbilt on Tuesday. Tennessee is likely to fall from the top spot, meaning the Tigers could move back to No. 1, the ranking they held from Jan. 21 until dropping a position Monday.

The Tigers climbed to the top of the poll after an 83-47 home win over Southern Mississippi (15-12, 7-6) on Jan. 19, the same day then-No. 1 North Carolina lost at home to unranked Maryland.

After clinching a share of the C-USA title with Wednesday's win, Memphis can claim its third straight outright league championship for the first time in school history with a ninth consecutive victory over the Golden Eagles.

Another performance like Wednesday and the Tigers should be in good shape to post their 37th straight victory over a conference opponent.

Willie Kemp had 14 points, while Shawn Taggart and Doneal Mack each had 12 as the Memphis reserves outscored Tulsa's 43-11 in a game the Tigers led 43-19 at halftime.

"I feel like we are a good team, a championship team," Taggart said. "Every championship team, when they take a loss, they want to come out and prove a point and play hard. I feel like our bench showed we can score and we can produce on defense."

Memphis shot 13-for-25 from 3-point range and forced 17 Tulsa turnovers.

"I was really, really pleased," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "It's good to win just to get that other thing out of your system."

Leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts had nine points in just 16 minutes Wednesday. Douglas-Roberts is averaging 17.5 points and had 19 in the Tigers' January win over Southern Miss.

The Golden Eagles have lost their last three home games against Memphis and are coming off a 95-67 defeat at Houston on Wednesday.

Craig Craft had 16 points, while Andre Stephens and Jeremy Wise each had 14 for Southern Miss, which didn't have an answer for Houston's Rob McKiver, who scored 52 points - the most by a Division I player this season.

Wise, the team's leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, is averaging 19.9 in his last nine contests since being held to nine points on 3-for-11 shooting against Memphis on Jan. 19.



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