NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- John Calipari knows opponents will try to frustrate Memphis with every junk defense possible, working to slow down games and hoping the Tigers can't shoot.
Well, his second-ranked Tigers are showing they can win that way, too.
Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart scored 11 points apiece, and the second-ranked Tigers shook off the rust from an 11-day break by beating Middle Tennessee 65-41 Saturday night in the opening game of the Sun Belt Classic doubleheader.
The Memphis coach complimented Middle Tennessee's effort.
"They did what a lot of teams are trying to do to us, which is pack it in, junk it up, hold the ball, try to make shots at the buzzer, try to keep it close, try to get fouled," Calipari said. "And you know, the only thing I keep telling my team is we have to see if they can do that for 40 minutes.
"Let's make it very difficult."
With the victory, the Tigers improved to 8-0 and matched their best start since the 1995-96 season and their fourth such start since World War II.
Memphis had not played since holding off Southern California 62-58 in overtime on Dec. 4 in New York. The Tigers needed someone to play before visiting Cincinnati and hosting Georgetown (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) on Dec. 22 back in Memphis.
Middle Tennessee (3-6) offered the perfect opponent and allowed the Tigers to fulfill the third and final game of their contract without having to visit Murfreesboro, approximately 30 miles southeast of Nashville.
The Tigers outshot (49 percent to 27) and outrebounded (38-30) Middle Tennessee in a game they never trailed and which was tied only once at 16. Dorsey also had a team-high 12 rebounds.
Theryn Hudson, Demetrius Green and Dino Hair each scored eight for the Blue Raiders. Point guard Kevin Kanaskie was 1-of-8 from the floor and had four turnovers compared to two assists, and Nigel Johnson had five of Middle Tennessee's 20 turnovers.
"To be as inept as we were offensively and still give up only 65, that was encouraging to me," Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis said.
Fellow Sun Belt member Western Kentucky was to play Tennessee (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) in the other game Saturday night. More than 18,000 tickets were sold at the Sommet Center, an arena record for a regular season college basketball game in the home of the NHL's Nashville Predators, easily topping the previous mark of 8,118.
This counted as a home game for Middle Tennessee, so the Blue Raiders set an attendance record that topped their 11,807 against Western Kentucky on Dec. 18, 2006.
That's about all the Blue Raiders got out of playing their highest-ranked opponent since a loss to then-No. 2 Kansas on Nov. 27, 2000.
Chris Douglas-Roberts opened the game with a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Tigers ahead to stay. That was the only 3 they would hit until Andre Allen closed out the first half, as Memphis struggled early and was 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Tigers guard Antonio Anderson said the coaches spent the past week preparing them for different defenses including switchup zone and man-to-man. But Derrick Rose was held to four points, well below his average of 15.9, and Douglas-Roberts had only five, well down from his 20.1 points per game.
"We've got to be able to get the ball inside," Dozier said. "We've got to be able to put points on the board. We have to ... make it tough on them like they're trying to make it on us."
The Tigers looked very rusty in the first half, including one sequence in which Douglas-Roberts missed a short jumper off the front rim, then Dorsey turned the ball over by walking.
Middle Tennessee, with vocal fan support, managed to stay close and even tied the game at 9:33 on a shot by Kanaskie, son of Penn State associate head coach Kurt Kanaskie.
Dorsey answered with a three-point play, and the Tigers finally warmed up and started putting some distance between themselves and Middle Tennessee. Darren Avery scored with 4:11 left and pulled the Blue Raiders within 26-22.
Memphis scored the final nine points for a 35-22 halftime edge that was its biggest lead until the second half.
"We were really, really intimidated around the goal," Davis said. "They blocked eight shots, probably changed 10 or 12 shots."
The Tigers pushed it to as much as 29 on an Antonio Anderson layup. But it never got as bad as Nov. 20, when Middle Tennessee trailed by as much as 71 in losing 109-40 at Tennessee. The neutral court advantage helped a bit -- Memphis won 86-46 last season on its home court.