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Memphis' 22nd consecutive victory nets Conference USA tourney title

Associated Press • Mar 11, 2007 at 10:12 AM

MEMPHIS - John Calipari doesn't know where No. 5 Memphis will be seeded or sent in the NCAA tournament. He's not sure how good his Tigers really are, even with the nation's best winning streak.

"Compared to everybody else, I don't know. I do know this. I don't think they're lining up to play us. That line's empty," Calipari said.

Chris Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson each scored 17 points and the Tigers extended their winning streak to 22 straight, beating Houston 71-59 on Saturday to wrap up their second straight Conference USA tournament championship.

The Tigers (30-3) already had their NCAA tournament spot assured without the automatic berth. A No. 1 seed last year with the same record, they may have earned a No. 2 seed for their second straight and 20th NCAA appearance overall.

Calipari didn't campaign much except to point out his Tigers have won nine straight on the road and couldn't get a Top 25 team to visit Memphis.

Houston coach Tom Penders lobbied for Calipari, and essentially the league, and said the Tigers deserve at least a No. 2 seed. He said Memphis would have won the national title last year if not for a bad game against UCLA in the regional final.

"There are a lot of teams that may have a little bit more publicity or national recognition, but they're outstanding in every area," Penders said.

Douglas-Roberts said the Tigers remember last year's NCAA experience.

"We were freshmen, so we really didn't have any experience in the tournament," the sophomore guard said. "And we definitely didn't have any experience in the Elite Eight game. This year, we were telling our freshmen how intense it is."

Memphis now is 63-7 over the past two seasons and became the first Conference USA team to go undefeated in the regular season, then win the tournament title. Cincinnati went 16-0 in 1999-2000 but lost in the quarterfinals when Kenyon Martin broke his leg.

Houston (18-15) hadn't played in a conference tournament championship since 1992 when the Cougars won their fifth and final Southwest Conference tournament. Winning the title and automatic berth was the only way the Cougars could play their way into their first NCAA tournament since 1992.

Robert McKiver, the league's second-leading scorer averaging 19.1 points, was 1-of-6 with three points in the first half for Houston. He finished with seven. Oliver Lafayette led Houston with 23, and Jahmar Thorpe added 15.

Willie Kemp also had 10 points for Memphis.

The Tigers beat Houston for the third time this season and have won five straight in the series, including six consecutive in Memphis where the Tigers have a 32-game winning streak - also best in the nation.

The Cougars started fast, hitting eight of their first 12 shots for a 22-17 lead. The Tigers, perhaps unused to the 10:35 a.m. start time, had stretches in the first half without field goals.

Houston's last lead was at 26-25 on a free throw by Lafayette.

"I'm not disheartened by our team's performance because we gave it everything we had," Penders said. "We just didn't have enough depth."

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