MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis' defense continues to improve, and the Tigers (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) continue to win.
Robert Dozier had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Doneal Mack added 18 points to lead the Tigers to an 83-68 victory over Houston on Saturday, their 49th consecutive Conference USA win."We had great defense," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "What I love is our post defensive play really stepped up. Now, all of a sudden, you're pretty good in the post, and you're pretty good on the perimeter."Mack was 6-of-10 from the field, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, for Memphis (18-3, 7-0), while Antonio Anderson had 16 points, Shawn Taggart 11 and Tyreke Evans 10.The Tigers, who held Houston to 38 percent shooting, won their 12th straight overall."They're a great defensive team," Houston coach Tom Penders said, adding: "They don't allow you to run your plays, so you've got to be able to break them down off the dribble. You can't run your sets."Aubrey Coleman had a career-high 35 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Cougars (12-7, 3-3), who have lost three straight, while Kelvin Lewis had 10 points.Coleman returned from a one-game suspension levied by the conference after the junior stepped on Arizona's Chase Budinger a week earlier. The Memphis faithful booed Coleman every time he touched the ball during the game's early minutes.But Coleman responded to the adversity by scoring 10 of the Cougars' first 14 points to keep Houston close after Memphis opened the game with a 15-0 run."I wasn't surprised at the way he handled it," Penders said. "He's a wonderful kid in every sense. A wonderful kid who has a passion for the game."The Tigers hit six of their first eight shots, including going 3-of-4 outside the arc, in building the 15-0 lead. A layup by Zamal Nixon broke the ice for Houston with just under 16 minutes to play in the first half. The early lead was a combination of Memphis starting fast from outside the arc which led to openings in the post."They came out hitting their 3s," Penders said. "When Antonio [Anderson] hit that first 3, I said: `Uh-oh.' Then they hit the next 3 and we had to start stretching our defense a little, so they went inside."When they're hitting their 3s, I'm serious, they're as good as any team in the country."After Coleman carried Houston early, the rest of the Cougars finally started hitting shots as Lewis made two 3-pointers and Marcus Cousin scored on a 10-footer, all part of a 12-2 run that brought Houston within 29-28.The Cougars stayed close the rest of the half, although Memphis never surrendered the lead and was up 43-38 at the break.Memphis connected on 11 of its first 18 shots, but went into halftime shooting 45 percent, while Houston was at 42 percent. Memphis committed 12 turnovers in the half.The Cougars took their first lead of the game with two 3-pointers to open the second half. Memphis answered with a 14-4 run as the Tigers began putting the ball in Evans' hands. The rally included two layups by Evans, while Willie Kemp and Mack connected on 3-pointers to start and finish the run."I'm being more consistent," Mack said of his 3-point shooting. "I'm just trying to put the same shot up every time."Memphis extended the lead to 21 points as Houston was having trouble getting off shots. During one stretch as the Tigers pulled away, Houston didn't score a field goal over a 7-minute span.That was part of Houston going 9-of-28 from the field in the second half. Add to that a 48-26 advantage for the Tigers in the paint and outrebounding the Cougars 44-30 and it amounted to a long day for Houston."They have such long arms," Penders said. "They're not a muscle team. They're a long, lengthy team, and as good a rebounding team as I've seen in a long, long time."