Okay, no more pretending that the big game isn’t the big game.
While the drums of hype have sounded all week about Saturday’s huge No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Tennessee clash, both teams’ coaches worried about falling prey to Wednesday upsets.
It didn’t happen. No. 1 Memphis clobbered Tulane 97-71 and the Volunteers bashed Auburn 89-70 as both teams headed into Saturday’s showdown on a roll. The teams are now a combined 40-2 and Memphis is unbeaten at 26-0.
“It’s step up time now,” Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl told reporters after the game. “Everybody’s going to be challenged (against Memphis).”
Pearl pointed out that the crowd in Memphis should be rocking on Saturday.
“Memphis will be a great measuring stick for us Saturday,” Pearl said. “We have been in some difficult places, like Xavier and Kentucky, but Saturday will be the toughest environment we will face. Their talent level is so high. After I look at the film, we will have an idea of who has the deeper bench, Memphis or Tennessee.”
Tennessee’s Ramar Smith scored a season-high 19 points and Tyler Smith scored 13 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds for the Volunteers (24-2, 11-1 SEC) in their win.
Meanwhile, Memphis star Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 29 points in a mere 22 minutes in the Tigers’ win. Tigers freshman star Derrick Rose added 17 points, five assists and five rebounds.
Both teams made a little history on Wednesday on the way to the historic game as well. Memphis coach John Calipari won his 400th college game and Tennessee’s standout senior Chris Lofton became the seventh player in NCAA history to record 400 career three-pointers. Lofton also passed legendary UT star Bernard King to move into sixth on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list with 1,972 points.