Defense played a large part in the game in the early going as Memphis held a 6-5 advantage at the first media timeout, forcing Louisville to a second-straight turnover.
Tarik Black reeled off five-straight points for the Tigers, including a three-point play down low to put Memphis up 11-5 with just over 14 minutes to go. The Tigers continued to increase their lead with a three-pointer from Joe Jackson to make it 16-7. On the other end, D.J. Stephensrejected a three-point attempt by Russ Smith before running the court to slam down a dunk from Jackson to give Memphis a 18-7 lead, forcing a Louisville timeout.
Buckets from Jackson and Chris Crawfordfollowed by a three from Stephens gave Memphis a comfortable lead at 25-9 midway through the half, making it a 14-2 run over 4:15 for the Tigers.
The Cardinals began a 10-2 run over the next three minutes, forcing three Tigers turnovers and four Memphis fouls to make it 27-19 with seven minutes to play. Stephens ended the Memphis drought by throwing down a pass from Adonis Thomasto give Memphis a double-digit lead at 29-19 with six minutes to go.
The Cardinals inched closer to the Tigers with a 6-0 run to come within four with four minutes to play in the half. A three from Luke Hancock put the Cardinals down by just one, but Memphis ended the half on a 6-0 run as a dunk from Shaq Goodwinended an over five-minute field goal drought by the Tigers to go into the half with a 35-28 lead.
Jackson led the Tigers at the half with 10 points while Black and Stephens added nine and eight, respectively.
In the second half, the Cardinals came back to within one before a three from Johnson and a jumper by Jackson pushed the Memphis lead to 45-39 four minutes in. Another three from Johnson and two baskets from Black in the paint gave the Tigers a 52-44 advantage. On the other end, Johnson intercepted a pass from Peyton Siva to run the length of the court to slam down a dunk to give Memphis a 10-point lead with 12 minutes to go.
Louisville answered with three-straight treys to bring the Tigers lead to one before taking the lead at 57-54 with three points from the free throw line midway through the half.
The teams would trade baskets for the next five minutes before a three from Russ Smith gave Louisville a 68-62 lead with four minutes left. After being down by 10, the Tigers put together a rally to cut it to within five with under a minute remaining. However, the Cardinals knocked down shots at the line to pull out an 87-78 victory.
Jackson led the Tigers with 23 points, one point shy of his career-high. Jackson also dished out eight assists, tying a season-high. Black came off the bench to add 21 points, while Johnson and Stephens also hit double figures with 12 and 10, respectively.
The Tigers shot 52 percent from the floor compared to Louisville’s 42 percent, and also led in the rebounding (34-28) and assist (18-15) categories. The Cardinals finished the game 38-46 from the charity stripe while Memphis was just 14-20 from the line.
Memphis will close out its homestand next Thursday when the Tigers host Lipscomb at FedExForum with a 7 p.m. tipoff.