No. 2 Memphis cruises past Southern Mississippi

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- With the No. 1 ranking in sight, the Memphis Tigers wanted to seize the opportunity.

And the No. 2 Tigers took care of their end of the deal early Saturday night, beating Southern Mississippi 83-47 hours after top-ranked North Carolina lost at home to Maryland.

"I think we deserve it," Memphis forward Joey Dorsey said.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 19 points and Derrick Rose scored 13 to help Memphis stake its claim.

"We're just one of those teams," Douglas-Roberts said. "We were No. 2. No. 1 lost, so why shouldn't we be?"

Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers' leading scorer with a 16.3 average, connected on 7 of 10, including both shots outside the arc, as Memphis (17-0, 4-0 Conference USA) won its 42nd straight home game and extended its streak of consecutive league wins to 27. Doneal Mack added 12 points, missing only one of his five shots from 3-point range.

Southern Mississippi (9-9, 1-3) lost its second straight and has dropped six of its last seven.

"Obviously, we were totally outclassed," Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy said. "They have tremendous talent, a ton of depth, and they just keep coming at you with fresh players."

The only time the Tigers have been ranked No. 1 was in 1983. They moved into the top spot on Jan. 10, but lost at Virginia Tech that same night and dropped to No. 6 the next week.

With about 3 minutes left Saturday night, the Memphis crowd began chanting, "We're No. 1. We're No. 1" as the Tigers built the lead to 39 points. Even Memphis coach John Calipari stood and clapped with the crowd adding a little hip-shake dance.

"For this team to be doing the things we're doing, it's incredible," Calipari said. "Let me say this: Enjoy this. Live the moment. Not worrying about games down the road. I told the guys to take a day off [Sunday] and enjoy themselves."

Memphis and Kansas are the only undefeated teams left in the country, and Dorsey expressed a touch of concern about the possibility that voters may not push the Tigers to the top of the polls.

"We don't know yet," he said. "We've got to wait and see what the voters say. They might just do a tie with us and Kansas. You can't get happy yet."

Jeremy Wise and R.L. Horton led Southern Miss with 9 points apiece. Andre Stephens had 10 rebounds for the Golden Eagles.

The Tigers held Southern Miss to 26 percent shooting for the game, including 0-for-14 on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Memphis shot 52 percent and had only five turnovers.

"That was one of our best efforts this year," Calipari said. "Maybe one of the best efforts since I've been here, when you talk about the pace the game was played, the way we defended and contested shots and only had five turnovers.

"At that speed, that's incredible."

None of the Golden Eagles had a good night shooting. Courtney Beasley was 3-of-14 and Wise and Horton each missed eight of their 11 shots in the game.

"We shot as poorly as any team I've ever had shoot," Eustachy said. "If you don't shoot well, it affects the whole game. But make no mistake about it, Memphis has everything to do with why the score was the way it was."

Memphis used 14 points from Douglas-Roberts to take a 44-23 lead at the half. Douglas-Roberts connected on 5 of 6 from the field, and Mack keyed a rally late in the half with a trio of 3-pointers.

Southern Mississippi's intensity kept the Golden Eagles close until the midway point of the half. The Southern Mississippi defense threw Memphis slightly out of rhythm in the early stages, and the Golden Eagles were within 24-20 with 8 minutes left.

But Southern Mississippi missed 12 of its final 14 shots in the half. That helped the Tigers put together a 20-3 run to close the half. Memphis eventually would lead by 40.

"They do it all the time before the half," Eustachy said. "They really do. If you look at their stats, they really do a number on teams late in the first half. I think it's their depth."

Now, Memphis will wait for the polls to come out and see if they will ascend to the top spot for only the second time in school history. If, for some reason, they remain at No. 2, that's fine, Calipari said. It will "inspire" his team.

"We still don't know if we'll be No. 1," Douglas-Roberts said. "Either way we're going to play like we're a No. 1 team."