"The kid's playing like a first-team All-American, playing like a pro," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. "I feel bad that with his warrior effort we came up a little short."
Russ Smith set personal bests with 24 points and seven steals as the Cardinals survived a rough-and-tumble matchup that featured 54 fouls, 83 free throws and 54 field goals in the schools' first meeting since Louisville (10-0) beat Memphis (5-4) by a point to win the Conference USA tournament in 2005.
Gorgui Dieng added 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinals, who are off to their best start since 1996-97.
After Memphis rallied from a 13-point deficit to take a 58-55 lead, the two sides traded baskets for 6 minutes until Louisville took control.
"They withstood our runs and they made the last one that counted," Barton said.
With the game tied, Chane Behanan hit two free throws, Rakeem Buckles finished a layup on a fast break, Dieng grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a shot in traffic, and Kyle Kuric finished an alley-oop slam from Smith to give the Cardinals a 78-70 lead with 4:49 to play.
Chris Smith's 3-pointer gave Louisville an 83-73 lead and Memphis couldn't mount a final charge. Peyton Siva finished with 13 points, Buckles 12, Kuric and Smith 11 apiece and Behanan 10 for Louisville.
This game harkened back to the two schools' time together in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Conference and Conference USA with Memphis wearing throwback uniforms from their days under coach Gene Bartow in the early '70s. Coach Rick Pitino has advocated that Memphis be added to the expanded Big East conference, and games like this could bolster the Tigers' chances.
"It was exciting to have Memphis back. We've had some great games with them. I'm just hoping the Big East gets smart and does something about that and allows them to come into the league," Pitino said. "I keep getting on the pulpit and saying this, 'We got hurt big time and we need Memphis. Memphis doesn't need us, we need Memphis. We need Temple. We need to build up basketball again."
Kuric hit a 3-pointer to give Louisville a 47-34 lead with 18 1/2 minutes left, but Memphis rallied with a 13-3 run. Jackson hit a jumper and gave Memphis its first lead in nearly 20 minutes when he scored with a floater off the backboard and was fouled.
Jackson pumped his fist, yelling "That's right!" then sank the free throw that gave Memphis a 58-55 lead. But Buckles answered with a free throw and a 3-pointer to keep the game close until Louisville's decisive 8-0 spurt.
"We cannot just start out slow," Barton said. "I don't know what it is but we've got to fix that immediately if we're going to be the team we want to be. And I think we'll fix it. It's not too late. But we've just got to do it. I'm sick of talking about it, we've just got to do it."
The Tigers began the season ranked 11th in the poll after returning all five starters and 10 letter-winners, but dropped games to Michigan and Georgetown in the Maui Invitational before losing at home to Murray State on Sunday.
"We have a very talented team on paper. We've just to go put it on the floor," Jackson said. "We've just got to play stronger. We've got to stop guys from getting so many second-chance points and make free throws."
Next up is Lipscomb on Monday before traveling to Washington, D.C. for a rematch with the Hoyas on Thursday. Pastner said he needs two wins in the worst way.
"We've got to win Monday and then we've got to find a way to win next Thursday," the coach said. "So I can at least sleep and have a decent holiday."