Dec. 26, 2005
Both programs get one of their last opportunities to do so Tuesday night when they square off at the FedEx Forum in a matchup of highly ranked, high-scoring teams.
The fourth-ranked Tigers (9-1) have won six in a row and enter this contest scoring 86.2 points per game, fourth-best nationally.
Led by NCAA scoring leader Adam Morrison, No. 8 Gonzaga (9-2) has won five straight and averages 78.1 points while shooting 80.1 percent from the free-throw line, third-best in the country.
Following this game, the Bulldogs host Saint Joseph's on Saturday before kicking off their West Coast Conference schedule on Jan. 7 at Saint Mary's. No other team in the WCC is ranked, and only two others are above .500 - San Diego (9-3) and Saint Mary's (5-4).
Like Gonzaga, Memphis is the only Top 25 team in its league. This is the second contest in a six-game homestand before the Tigers begin Conference USA play on Jan. 11 at East Carolina. However, they will get one more crack at a ranked team next Monday when they host No. 15 Texas.
"There's no one to this point that has played a better schedule than us," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "No one. But we still have Gonzaga, Purdue, Texas, Middle Tennessee, Winthrop and Tennessee left, so it's not going to get any easier."
Calipari was on the opposite sideline the last time Memphis played in a game in which both teams were in the top 10. That came on Jan. 4, 1996, when Calipari's top-ranked Massachusetts squad defeated then-No. 3 Memphis 64-61.
This is the first time the Tigers, off to their best start since 1985-86, are hosting a top 10 opponent while being ranked in the top 10.
This contest features talented forwards, with Morrison looking to outplay Memphis' tandem of Rodney Carney and Shawne Williams.
Morrison is looking to bounce back from one of his least productive games, getting held to 18 points as Gonzaga struggled to beat Saint Louis 60-57 on Thursday.
However, seven of Morrison's points came in the final five minutes. Averaging a nation-best 27.5 points per game, Morrison was hounded by the Billikens defense throughout the game.
"I just did what I do, I guess," Morrison said. "Try to keep the lead extended and get out of here.
"Every time I drove, there were two guys looking at me and two guys on the help side. You've got to tip your hat to their team to kind of slow me down, I guess you can say."
Carney is coming off a Morrison-like performance, scoring a career-high 37 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a 76-58 win over Louisiana Tech last Tuesday.
Memphis trailed 6-0 to start the game but responded with an 18-2 run keyed by Carney, who scored 11 during the burst.
"Defensively, I started off with a couple of steals and a couple of lockdowns and I went from there," said Carney, who tops the Tigers with 20 steals. "I just took what they gave me. I had open 3s when (defenders) kind of broke down. I hit open drives and open dunks. That's what they gave me."
Carney is averaging 24.3 points in three games since being taken out of the starting lineup.
Williams has been a starter for most of his freshman season, averaging 16.1 points to go with 5.8 rebounds per game.
His best performance came against a ranked opponent, scoring 26 points in an 88-80 win over then-No. 16 UCLA on Nov. 23.
Memphis' only loss this season was to top-ranked Duke 70-67 in the championship of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 25 after defeating then-No. 15 Alabama and UCLA to reach the title game.
Gonzaga has split four games against ranked teams, beating Michigan State and Maryland while losing to Connecticut and Washington.
The Bulldogs won the only previous meeting between the teams, 88-73 at Memphis in the first round of the 1998 Preseason NIT.