The 22nd-ranked Tigers have seen their fill of Piscataway, New Jersey. Having played one of their finest games of the season last Saturday in an overtime loss at UConn, Memphis allowed one of the worst teams in the American Athletic Conference to compete until the final buzzer. A Scarlet Knight team that lost to the Tigers by 32 on February 4th and by 48 just last Sunday to Louisville pulled within three points — on a long-distance heave by Myles Mack — with four seconds to play. Tiger senior Geron Johnson hit a pair of free throws, though, to seal his team's 20th win of the season.
The game had the elegance of a Jersey strip mall from the outset. Memphis shot 41 percent from the field in the first half, which was actually a high figure when you consider senior point guard Joe Jackson missed nine of his ten field goal attempts before the break. Rutgers was no better (31 percent), but enjoyed a 10-2 run over a six-minute stretch to close the Tiger lead to seven (28-21) after 20 minutes.
A Kadeem Jack drive brought the Scarlet Knights within four points (53-49) with 2:35 seconds to play, but the Tigers' Michael Dixon buried a three pointer beyond the top of the key to extend the Memphis lead to 59-51 with 1:16 left. Dixon led the Tigers with 15 points (13 after halftime), while Jackson scored 11. Tiger big men Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols each tallied 10 points. Jack led Rutgers with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Scarlet Knights fell to 4-10 in their first and last season as members of the American Athletic Conference. Next season, they'll host the likes of Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana as members of the Big 10.
The victory gives the Memphis program 14 consecutive 20-win seasons and ties coach Josh Pastner with former Memphis coach Dana Kirk at five such campaigns. Now 9-4 in the AAC, the Tigers return to FedExForum Saturday night for a tilt with Temple.