Tigers Win at Houston, 89-77, for Best Start in School History
Jan. 30, 2008
About the same time the Tigers closed out the Cougars, the Jayhawks lost 84-75 to Kansas State. Calipari only cares that his team seems to be improving with each game.
"It's nice, I guess," he said. "Are we getting better? We got better today."
Robert Dozier scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and the Tigers (20-0, 6-0 Conference USA) overcame a season-high 22 turnovers to extend their regular-season winning streak to 39 games. Memphis matched its best start since 1985-86 and won its 15th consecutive road game.
The Tigers countered their turnover total by shooting 58.5 percent, outrebounding the smaller Cougars 49-29 and scoring 44 points in the paint.
"We turned it over a few too many times, but we played well," Calipari said. "What you saw was one of our best efforts."
Dion Dowell scored 23 points and Robert McKiver scored 20 for the Cougars (15-4, 4-1), who dropped to 2-10 all-time against the No. 1 team. Houston coach Tom Penders was also denied his 600th career victory.
Penders was more resigned than disappointed afterward, conceding that the Cougars were simply overmatched.
"They're just a great team," Penders said. "You're going to have to play an extremely strong, efficient game, and hope they're not playing at their highest level, to knock them off."
The Tigers led 46-35 at the break and started the second half with a 10-4 spurt. Dowell hit three free throws and a 3-pointer over the next two minutes as Houston pulled within 13.
Memphis pushed the lead to 17, but the Cougars' scrambling, full-court pressure forced five turnovers in four minutes during a 12-3 burst that closed the gap to 66-58. Memphis' lead hovered between eight and 10 until Douglas-Roberts finished a fast break with a dunk for a 74-62 lead. Dozier added two baskets down low as the Tigers finally pulled away.
Dozier hadn't scored in double figures in three weeks before hitting nine of 13 shots on Wednesday. He also grabbed seven rebounds.
"Dozier had a breakout game," Calipari said.
Dorsey swiped a rebound with one hand and threw down a dunk in the closing minutes, sealing the Tigers' 29th consecutive victory in Conference USA. The 6-foot-9, 265-pound Dorsey also blocked four shots.
"As we run down this season, when he does that, we become a really good team," Calipari said. "Even if you break us down on the dribble, he's standing in there. If he doesn't adjust a shot, he's grabbing balls."
Memphis, the league's best defensive team, held high-scoring Houston to 35 percent shooting from the field (24-of-68). The Cougars average 10 3-pointers per game, but went 6-for-24 from long range against the bigger, faster Tigers.
"We didn't have enough offense, at times, to stay with them," Penders said. "When you play a team like that, you have to have your 'A' game. We didn't have our 'A' game offensively, but I give our kids an 'A' for effort."
The Tigers struggled early with Houston's trapping defense and trailed 11-4 after giving away four turnovers in the first four minutes.
Memphis quickened the pace and charged ahead with an 13-0 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Willie Kemp. The Cougars were suddenly sloppy and went three minutes without scoring. Kelvin Lewis sank two free throws to cut Houston's deficit to 24-20, but the Tigers stayed in control.
Douglas-Roberts scored eight quick points and Kemp drove through the Cougars' defense for a layup to stretch the lead to 36-25. McKiver's long jumper with 7:46 left before halftime was Houston's only field goal for six minutes.
After a hot start, the Cougars ended up 12-of-37 (32 percent) from the field in the first half with only three 3-pointers.
The Cougars were facing the No. 1 team for the first time since a 77-65 loss to Cincinnati on Feb. 17, 2000.