Houston 62

(19-8, 9-5 C-USA)

(3) Memphis 69

(27-3, 13-1 C-USA)

    9:00 PM ET, March 4, 2006

    FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee

    1 2 T
    HOU 32 3062
    #3MEM 30 3969

    Top Performers

    Houston: J. Thorpe 25 Pts, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk

    Memphis: R. Carney 17 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 Blk

    Memphis rebounds from first C-USA loss by beating Houston

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Memphis isn't exactly sprinting into the postseason.

    The No. 3 Tigers struggled for the third straight game Saturday night before finally turning back Houston 69-62 and capturing the Conference USA championship.

    In those three games, Memphis has been taken to the wire by Tulsa and Houston and was handed its only conference loss of the season Thursday night at UAB. Some of those feelings from the loss spilled over into the opening minutes Saturday night.

    "We were awful for a while," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "In that first half, oh my gosh. I'm looking at it, thinking, 'Can we be this bad?' Yeah. And it was a little bit of being gun-shy from that loss. That happens when you lose."

    Senior forward Rodney Carney scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his final home game to lead Memphis (27-3, 13-1), which won its first conference title outright since the 1994-95 Great Midwest Conference crown.

    The game came down to the final 4 minutes after both teams played tough defense. It took one final surge from the Tigers to finally overtake the Cougars down the stretch.

    Memphis used a 9-2 run to extend a two-point lead to 67-58 with 1:36 left on Darius Washington's free throws. Carney's rebound dunk with 51 seconds remaining punctuated his career and the Tigers' championship season.

    By that point, the Cougars had lost three players to fouls. Houston coach Tom Penders said he was "ready to start calling in the cheerleaders."

    "I thought we were in control of the game until we ran out of bodies," Penders said. "I've been coaching for 32 years, and I've never had a better defensive team than this."

    Shawne Williams scored 13 points for Memphis, and, like Carney, had three blocks. Washington added 12 points, but was 3-for-12 from the field.

    Jahmar Thorpe led Houston (19-8, 9-5) with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Chris Lawson and Ramon Dyer each scored 11. Dyer also had 10 rebounds.

    Oliver Lafayette, who leads the Cougars with 16.1 points a game, was limited to only two points, missing six of his seven shots from the field, including all four outside the arc before fouling out with 3:37 left.

    "He was in foul trouble," Penders said. "He got touch fouls called. I had to take him out. It's tough to stay in the rhythm."

    The teams traded leads through the middle of the second half and were tied at 54 after Dyer's fast-break basket with just under 5 minutes left. Houston still was within two after Lawson hit a pair of free throws with 3:47 left, and that's when Memphis went on its final run.

    Houston dominated the first half with a swarming defense that prevented Memphis from getting the ball inside. Memphis missed 12 of its first 16 shots and committed 14 turnovers in the half, nine of those coming on steals by Houston defenders swatting the ball away from Tigers big men inside.

    The Cougars' tough interior defense forced Memphis to take 10 of its first 16 shots from outside the arc.

    "Early, they came out with great intensity, and they really put us in the hole," Carney said. "I knew things would calm down, and we would come back like we always do."

    Houston built the lead to 11 midway through the first period and held a 10-point lead on two other occasions.

    But Memphis rallied with a 12-2 run in the final minutes of the half and tied the game at 28 before Houston carried a 32-30 lead into the break. It was Memphis' lowest scoring first half since its 69-58 loss to Texas on Jan. 2.

    Thorpe had 14 points to lead Houston.

    Carney said he did not believe there were any lingering effects from the UAB loss, even though Saturday's start was sluggish as Memphis didn't hit its first field goal until 6 minutes into the game.

    "That game's completely behind us," Carney said. "What we took from that game is that we're not invincible."

    Calipari added that other top teams like Duke, which has lost two straight, Texas, Pitt, are having the same struggles down the stretch.

    "I told them, 'There are other players around the country feeling like you do about their game," Calipari said. "Just keep working at it. You'll be fine. We may not be playing great right now. Don't worry about that. We're winning the way we're playing, but they're going to have to start playing a little bit better."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 62 69
    FG Made-Attempted 20-61 (.328) 20-49 (.408)
    3P Made-Attempted 7-26 (.269) 6-18 (.333)
    FT Made-Attempted 15-25 (.600) 23-34 (.676)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (0/0) 23 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 11 9

    2005-06 Season

    » Mar 4, 2006 @MEM 69, HOU 62Recap
    Mar 10, 2006 @MEM 68, HOU 54Recap