Preview: Cincinnati at No. 23 Memphis


Memphis is winning, but not the way coach John Calipari would like.

The No. 23 Tigers will try to please their coach with a better effort when they host former league rival Cincinnati on Thursday before opening their Conference USA schedule.

Oddsmakers have the Tigers set as 15-point favorites. The total is set at 138 1/2.

Calipari found plenty of fault in his team`s 87-62 win over Lamar in its most recent game last Thursday. The Tigers (10-3) shot 43.2 percent from the field and 54.8 percent (17-for-31) from the free-throw line.

Those numbers were slightly below their unimpressive season averages - 45.7 percent from the field and 60.0 percent at the foul line - and Calipari is expecting more from his club as it goes for a third straight win since losing 79-71 at then-No. 9 Arizona on Dec. 20.

"Anytime you`re disgusted with a 25-point win, you know your expectations are pretty high," said Calipari, whose team will open Conference USA play on Jan. 11 at Houston.

Memphis was able to pull away in the second half against Lamar, but struggled early, missing six of its first seven shots while committing four turnovers.

"To watch it was painful," Calipari said. "I want to enjoy this team. I love the team. I love the guys, but I`m not enjoying some of the coaching parts right now because they are not playing to the level they are capable of."

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting to lead the Tigers. The sophomore guard tops the team with 15.8 points per game.

Jeremy Hunt averages 13.0 points, having scored in double figures in five consecutive games.

Memphis has had a relatively easy time during its non-conference home schedule, going 8-0 while winning by an average of 25.9 points. The Tigers will look to extend their home winning streak to 22 straight games.

Calipari would like to see his team play closer to its potential in preparation of playing on the road against tougher teams later in the season. The Tigers have lost both of their true road games, including a 76-58 defeat to Tennessee on Dec. 6. They also lost to then-No. 19 Georgia Tech at the Maui Invitational.

"We`ve got to break through to another level," Calipari said. "I think we have that next level. Now, I`ve got to get them believing they have another level.

"Can we be a great team? Let`s hope so. That`s what we are striving for."

Memphis has been less than great in recent years against Cincinnati (9-4), which moved from Conference USA to the Big East last season. The Tigers have won only twice in the last 10 meetings, but did beat the Bearcats 91-81 last season behind a career-high 32 points from current starting guard Antonio Anderson.

Cincinnati is playing its first true road game of the season before it opens Big East play against Rutgers on Sunday.

The Bearcats have struggled at times during Mick Cronin`s first season as coach. Cincinnati lost home games to struggling Wofford and UAB, was routed 72-50 by Ohio State and is coming off a 79-66 loss to Ohio last Saturday.

Allowing 61.7 points per game for the season, the Bearcats have given up more than 70 in three of their last four games while going 2-2. They committed a season-high 24 turnovers against Ohio.

"We`ve been competitive all year because of our efforts on defense, that we`ve taken care of the ball and we have limited turnovers and second shots," Cronin said. "We did not do that today."

Leading scorer John Williamson matched his season average with 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting against Ohio, a game after he was held to six points in a 60-52 win over Miami of Ohio on Dec. 27.

Cincinnati leads 36-28 in the all-time series against Memphis.

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