The last time Memphis lost to a Conference USA opponent, I was in community college and working at a children’s agency in downtown Memphis.
It was March of 2006, a year after Darius Washington missed two free throws when the Tigers lost to UAB in Birmingham en route to the first of three consecutive Conference USA championships.
That team had players like Chris Douglas-Roberts, Rodney Carney, Jeremy Hunt, Joey Dorsey, and the aforementioned Darius Washington, just to name a few.
For nearly three years, no Conference USA member has said that they slayed the giant that is the Memphis basketball program.
As a fan, I can remember very well four games in which the Tigers’ streak almost came to a sudden halt.
A year after that night in Birmingham, the Tigers, playing for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, traveled to Dallas to face SMU to close out the regular season and clinch the first undefeated conference slate in school history.
Now for most that don’t know, Southern Methodist’s last NCAA appearance was in 1993 and for the most part, the Mustangs aren’t too high on the fear factor of those who walk into Moody Coliseum.
But on that March night, the Mustangs almost did the unthinkable until Memphis, true to its custom, closed the window of opportunity on the Mustangs and clinched its second straight C-USA title.
Almost a year later, the Tigers were in trouble again in Birmingham as they faced the Blazers before another packed house in Bartow Arena and by the grace of God defeated the Blazers as well as the hillbillies who decided to throw things on the court.
The third close call that I have recollections of was shared this past Saturday at my mother’s house when the Tigers faced Central Florida in Orlando.
Given the fact that when I did the 25 greatest basketball programs in the South, I made a note that in the 21 years my mother has been at the University of Memphis, the Tigers have had only three losing seasons and 18 postseason appearances.
The problem was that despite the success the Tigers had in basketball, my mother pulled for the opponent whenever I watched a game with her.
“They’re going to lose,” my mother said Saturday when it seemed like Central Florida was going to put an end to the streak.
“It’s 8 minutes left in the game,” I said, as Central Florida continued to hold serve with the Tigers.
“They can’t pull it off,” my mother said.
“Yes they can,” I said.
True to form, the Tigers, playing before another raucous crowd in UCF Arena, extended “The Streak” to 44 games by pulling away in the last part of the game, winning 73-66.
Close call number four came Tuesday night in Tulsa when the Golden Hurricane, which features guard Ben Uzoh and center Jerome Jordan, nearly put an end to “The Streak.”
The 5,950 fans at the Reynolds Center were set to rush the floor when Uzoh hit a free throw with 4.5 seconds left to give the Golden Hurricane a 54-53 lead, something that caught my attention while writing this column last night.
“Let’s go Tulsa,” New Orleans native Jonah Leavell said as we watched the final seconds of the game.
Mind you, New Orleans is the home of Tulane University, a school that has never been known for basketball tradition and the same school in which a gambling scandal rocked the program during the days of “Hot Rod” Williams, so I could understand the confusion Leavell has when it comes to basketball in Memphis.
“Tulsa’s pretty good though,” I said, “they won 20-plus games last season, but the Tigers always find some way to pull it out.”
With 4.1 seconds left in “The Streak” and a legion of fans waiting to rush the court at the Reynolds Center, Antonio Anderson would receive the grace of God in the form of a basketball and make a leaning layup at the buzzer to extend the streak to 45 wins and counting in Conference USA.
A play that was from the textbook of former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, who used it in the 1982 Great Alaska Shootout where it proved to be the deciding factor in the Tigers’ victory over the Golden Hurricane.
After the game ended, I sent a text to former Crichton basketball player Michael Sapp.
“We Memphis boys know how to hoop,” the text message read.
All but maybe one.