No. 23 Memphis lifts its energy level to turn away Houston
MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A lively start for Memphis ensured the Tigers were never in danger of extending that home losing streak in the American Athletic Conference.
Shaq Goodwin had 20 points, Joe Jackson added 18 points and seven assists, and No. 23 Memphis jumped out to an early lead in an 82-59 victory over Houston on Thursday night.
The Tigers (14-4, 4-2 AAC) never trailed and led by 17 in the first half of their fourth win in five games. Memphis had lost its past two conference home games, to Cincinnati and Connecticut.
"It was about energy. We’ve got to have energy," coach Josh Pastner said. "We are a very good basketball team when we play with great energy."
TaShawn Thomas led Houston with 14 points and Brandon Morris added 13. LeRon Barnes finished with 10 points, connecting on all four shots from the field.
L.J. Rose had 10 assists for the Cougars, who shot 42.6 percent and committed 18 turnovers. Houston (11-8, 3-3) has lost three of four.
Cougars coach James Dickey said he tried to warn his team that Memphis would be on edge after those two AAC losses at home. Memphis has not dropped its first three home games in conference play since the 1969-70 season in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"You don’t lose two games at home when you have a great program like they do here and not be a little bit unhappy," Dickey said. "They didn’t do anything that surprised me, and I tried to impart upon our players that this was what the level of intensity and emotion was going to be. . . . They didn’t let up."
Memphis had 15 turnovers but overcame them with 59 percent shooting. The Tigers held a 48-36 advantage in the paint and outrebounded Houston 33-28.
Memphis dominated the first half — particularly inside — and shot 61 percent before the break. That helped the Tigers open a 17-point advantage before taking a 47-32 lead into halftime.
Goodwin, who scored 16 in the half, was free inside on numerous occasions, leading to a handful of dunks. Michael Dixon complemented Goodwin’s inside game by missing only one of his five shots in the opening 20 minutes. He connected on both 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half.
"It was kind of matador. We got out of the way," Dickey said of his team’s early defense on Goodwin. "I thought Shaq did a good job of establishing himself early. We made some bad rotations. We had some switches where they took great advantage of it."
Houston struggled in most facets during the first half, hitting at a 40 percent clip but missing seven of its eight shots from long range. The Cougars also committed 11 turnovers and appeared out of sync through much of the half. They finished the night 2 of 14 from outside the arc.
Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, had seven in the first half and hit all three of his shots from the floor.
Memphis maintained its large lead throughout the second half as Houston was never really able to make much of a dent.
Like Pastner, most of the Tigers players pointed to their intensity from the start, some saying it might have been the best energy they’ve had in a conference game.
"Our energy won us the game out there," said reserve forward David Pellom, who made all three of his shots en route to seven points. "The way we started and controlled the game set up the pace for the whole game."