Memphis coach John Calipari shrugs off his team's domination of Conference USA opponents over the past three years.
"We've probably had 10 near misses out of the 50," Calipari said of the Tigers' 50-game conference winning streak. "We've been fortunate to make a play late or have the ball bounce in. There will be a day when the ball bounces out and that will be the end of the streak."
It didn't come on Wednesday night as freshman Tyreke Evans scored 26 points, including eight in a key second-half run, and the 14th-ranked Tigers won No. 50, beating SMU 79-66 on Wednesday night.
The Tigers (19-3, 8-0) last lost in league play to UAB on March 2, 2006. They have won 13 straight, the second-longest winning streak in the nation behind Utah State's 16.
"I don't even remember the last loss because it was so long ago," said Memphis forward Robert Dozier, who was a freshman when the Tigers were beaten by UAB. "We play these teams two or three times a year. They know all our plays and personnel. That shows what kind of players we have to make it through all that."
With a small contingent of fans holding signs that read "50-0," The Tigers trailed 41-39 early in the second half before they went on a 21-5 run that gave them the lead for good. Evans scored eight points in the surge, including a 3-pointer that gave Memphis a 60-46 lead with just over 4 minutes remaining.
SMU (6-14, 1-7) has lost five straight games overall and nine in a row to ranked teams, a streak that dates to 2003.
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"It's a good experience for us in terms of our guys knowing they can play with the best," Mustangs coach Matt Doherty said.
Shawn Taggart scored 14 points and Dozier and Roburt Sallie both had 13 for the Tigers.
Paul McCoy had 16 points for SMU, while Mouhammad Faye added 14 and Derek Williams 13.
After SMU scored nine straight points to take their first lead since the opening minutes, Memphis answered with its game-changing run.
Evans had consecutive baskets to put the Tigers ahead 49-41, then fed Dozier on an alley-oop dunk that stretched it to 10. He capped the spurt with a 3-pointer.
"I knew the team needed me to make some baskets," said Evans, who fell one point shy of his season high.
Memphis will have to wait to extend its lengthy conference winning streak as the Tigers play No. 18 Gonzaga on Saturday in a nonconference game.
Early in the second half, SMU was assessed a technical foul when spectators threw a couple of T-shirts on the court after the Mustangs were called for a foul.
Evans missed the free throws for the technical, but stepped up seconds later and hit two free throws to give the Tigers a 39-32 lead.
SMU, which nearly ruined Memphis' perfect conference record two years ago before losing by three points, then briefly took the lead.
Williams hit a 3-pointer from 30 feet just before the shot clock expired to tie it at 39, and McCoy drove for a layup to give the Mustangs a 41-39 lead with 13:44 remaining.
"They play their best game against us," Dozier said. "They make tough shots here and play their hearts out. We knew they were going to be close. We just had to play through their runs."
The Mustangs missed five of seven shots and turned the ball over six times over the next 9 minutes.
Calipari, however, was quick to credit his team's offense for the late push.
"Offensively, that's as well as we've executed all year," Calipari said.
Sallie scored 11 points in just 6 minutes to help Memphis take a 34-29 halftime lead. The sophomore guard was 4-for-4 from the field, including three 3-pointers.
He hit from long distance with 4:58 left to give the Tigers a 29-21 lead, their largest to that point.
With Doherty raising his arms toward the crowd in an attempt to fire up the student section, the Mustangs closed the gap. Bamba Fall's layup just before the buzzer brought the Mustangs, who shot 50 percent in the opening half, within five.