Men's Basketball Team Plays Host To Top-Ranked Memphis

Jan. 29, 2008

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The University of Houston men's basketball team looks to win its fifth straight Conference USA game when the Cougars play host to No. 1 ranked University of Memphis this Wednesday night in a nationally-televised game on the Guy V. Lewis Court at Hofheinz Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. The Cougars enter the game with a 15-3 overall record and are 4-0 in Conference USA play after beating Marshall 71-58 in Hofheinz last Saturday night. Memphis enters the game with a 19-0 overall record and the Tigers are 5-0 in Conference USA play after beating Gonzaga 81-73 in Memphis last Saturday.

All Cougar fans are encouraged to come to the game decked in red. The first 2,000 students and first 500 non-students will be given a red T-shirt courtesy of the Princeton Review. Fans should arrive early to receive their FREE t-shirt.

Houston enters Wednesday night's game with a 10-18 record against Memphis in a series that began on Dec. 8, 1956. This marks the second straight year that the Cougars and Tigers will play each other twice during the regular season.

Last season, the Tigers won both regular season games before defeating Houston 71-59 in the Conference USA Tournament's championship game. Memphis has won the last five meetings between the two schools since Houston won a 66-53 contest on Feb. 5, 2005. Last season, the Cougars suffered a 79-69 setback against the Tigers in Houston.

Despite a combined 41 points by junior guard Robert McKiver and senior forward Jahmar Thorpe, Houston could not overcome a hot shooting hand by 19th-ranked Memphis as the Tigers beat the Cougars 79-69. McKiver led the Cougars with a game-high 27 points, and Thorpe scored 14 points, but Memphis shot 60 percent from the field, including 62.5 percent behind the three-point arc.

Chris Douglas-Roberts led Memphis with 16 points, and Jeremy Hunt came off the bench to score 14. Joey Dorsey powered his way inside for eight points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Two other Tigers scored in double figures with Robert Dozier netting 12 points and Doneal Mack adding 11. Dozier also blocked three shots.

Memphis also held the Cougars to 43 percent shooting (26-60) and dominated the backboards with a 35-26 rebounding advantage. The Tigers also out-scored Houston 40-18 in the paint.

Both teams opened the game tied at 5-5 in the first four minutes, before the Tigers used a 9-0 run to build an early lead. Dozier finished a fast break with a lay-up and Hunt sank a three-pointer, both off Cougars' turnovers, to put Memphis up 14-5.

The Tigers led 20-13 when Thorpe rebounded a 3-point miss by McKiver with one hand and dunked it to trigger an 8-2 spurt. McKiver swished a pair of three-pointers to cut the Tigers' lead to 22-21.

Houston trailed by three when Memphis mounted a 13-3 burst to push the lead into double digits. Douglas-Roberts converted a three-point play after another Houston turnover and Antonio Anderson hit a three-pointer. Memphis led 47-33 at the break after hitting 18 of 28 shots (64 percent) from the field.

McKiver was 6-of-10, with five three-pointers, and had 17 points at the break. The rest of the team missed 14 of 19 shots in the opening half. McKiver opened the second half swishing swished a three-pointer from the top of the key and Thorpe scored inside to pull the Cougars to within nine. But, Andre Allen answered with a three-pointer of his own and Dozier muscled in for a bank shot to stretch the lead to 15. Hunt nailed a three-pointer after Joey Dorsey grabbed an offensive rebound and Allen turned a steal into a breakaway lay-up to extend the lead to 59-40 by the 14-minute mark.

The Tigers stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way.

Wednesday night marks the 12th time that the Cougars have faced a No. 1 ranked team. Houston enters the game with a 2-9 record against top-ranked teams. Houston has lost its last three games against top-ranked teams. Those losses came against North Carolina in the 1982 NCAA Final Four, Virginia in the 1983 Suntory Classic at Tokyo and Cincinnati on Feb. 17, 2000. The last time Houston played host to a top-ranked team was on Feb. 17, 2000 when the Cougars suffered a 77-65 loss against Cincinnati. Houston's last win was on Feb. 18, 1978, when the Cougars upset Arkansas 84-75 in Hofheinz Pavilion. The only other win was Houston's 71-69 victory over UCLA on Jan. 20, 1968 at the Astrodome in the first nationally-televised regular season game.

Picked to tie UAB for second place behind Memphis in a poll of Conference USA coaches, the Cougars are led by preseason All-Conference USA selection Robert McKiver, who averages 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

McKiver recorded his eighth 20-point game of the season at SMU and has recorded three 30-point performances this season. He also has tied his own school record of nine three-point field goals in a game twice this season.

Dion Dowell averages 12.4 points per game and is the team's rebounding leader with a 7.6 average. The only player to start every game this season is senior forward Tafari Toney, who is averaging 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game after netting 64 points and 46 rebounds in Houston's last six games. Lanny Smith leads the team in assists with 4.8 per game after recording 10 assists against Marshall and five assists in 11 games this season. Smith also scored a season-high of 12 points at Massachusetts and 11 points against Kentucky.

Freshman guard Brockeith Pane is averaging 8.5 points per game and has scored in double figures seven times this season. Sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis is averaging 8.6 points and 3.9 rebounds. He netted a career-best 17 points against UTEP, 16 points against SMU, 10 at Rice and five against Marshall.

Houston's other freshman guard Zamal Nixon is averaging 7.6 points per game after netting seven points against Marshall.

Top-ranked Memphis joins Kansas as the only two undefeated teams remaining in the nation. The Tigers have won 22 straight C-USA regular season games and 28 straight C-USA games overall.

This season, Memphis owns a 5-0 record in Conference USA games after defeating Tulsa 56-41 on Jan. 23.

Junior Chris Douglas-Roberts leads the Tigers with 16.8 points per game after netting a team-high 21 against Gonzaga. Douglas-Roberts leads C-USA in three-point shooting with 50.0 percent (25-50) and is seventh in field goal percentage with 54.1 percent (118-218).

Freshman Derrick Rose is averaging 14.3 points and 4.4 assists per game, while senior Joey Dorsey leads C-USA in rebounding (10.6) and second in blocked shots (3.8).

Junior forward Robert Dozier averages 10.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Houston's fifth starter is Antonio Anderson, who averages 6.8 points and 3.6 assists, while Doneal Mack averages 8.4 points off the bench.

Robert McKiver scored 19 points and Dion Dowell added 15 to lead Houston to a 71-58 victory over Marshall in a Conference USA game at Hofheinz Pavilion last Saturday night.

The Thundering Herd jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first minute of the game as Darryl Merthie and Pierre-Marie Altidor Cespesdes each nailed a three-pointer from each wing.

But, Houston came back with a 17-3 run to take control of the game and never looked back. Kelvin Lewis began the run with a three-point basket from the top of the key. Then Dion Dowell, who was in the starting line-up for the first time in four games, tied the score at 9-9 when he nailed back-to-back three pointers.

Houston grabbed its lead for the first time when Tafari Toney drove the lane for a slam dunk and Robert McKiver nailed three consecutive three-point baskets to give Houston a 20-11 lead.

The Cougars went on to lead 40-27 at the half. McKiver finished the opening period 12 points, Dowell added nine in the opening period. Both teams fought back and forth in the second half before Houston surged to a 17-point lead, 49-32, as Lanny Smith hit Dowell on the left wing for a three-point basket.

Houston increased its lead to 57-38 with 10:38 left to play after Zamal Nixon scored five consecutive points on a three-point shot from the top of the key and a lay-up.

The Cougars led by as many as 21 points (66-45) before Marshall closed the game with a 13-5 run in the final five minutes of the game. Merthie, who finished with a game-high 22 points, began the run with a pair of three-point baskets.

Mark Dorris added a jumper in the lane and Tyler Wilkinson made both of his free throw attempts before Matt Walls closed out the scoring with his only three-points of the night on a three-pointer from the right wing with 11 seconds to play.

In addition to McKiver and Dowell combining for 34 points, Zamal Nixon and Marcus Cousin scored seven points off the bench and Smith finished with six points and a season-high 10 assists for the Cougars. Tafari Toney added six points and Kelvin Lewis finished with five.

Houston improved its record to 11-1 in home games this season after its victory against Marshall. Houston opened this season with a victory over Morehead State, and beat Texas Southern, Grambling State, Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Toledo, Southern, Kentucky and Arkansas-Pine Bluff before suffering an 85-71 loss against 24th-ranked Arizona. The Cougars bounced back with a 77-72 victory over UTEP on Jan. 19 before beating Marshall.

In addition to being 10-1 in home games this season, the Cougars have a 46-8 record in home games under head coach Tom Penders. Prior to this season, Houston posted records of 11-3 in 2006-07, 13-2 in 2005-06 and 12-2 in 2004-05 on the Guy V. Lewis Court at Hofheinz Pavilion. The Cougars have a 435-125 all-time record on Guy V. Lewis Court. Houston will tie a school record by playing 18 home games throughout the regular season in 2007-08. The only other time that UH played 18 home games was during the 1972--73 campaign.

Houston improved its record to 2-1 in road games after winning its first two Conference USA road contests against SMU and Rice. The lone loss this season came at Massachusetts on Jan. 2. The Cougars have a 2-1 record in neutral site games after finishing in fourth place at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 15-18. Houston won its final two games in the tournament over Marist and College of Charleston after suffering a 73-72 loss against VCU in the first game.

One constant factor in Houston's success under head coach Tom Penders is the ability to take care of the basketball. Houston leads Conference USA in turnover margin with an average of +6.3 per game. The Cougars are averaging just 11.5 turnovers per game after recording 11 turnovers against Marshall, 16 turnovers at Rice, 18 turnovers against UTEP and eight at SMU. Houston has forced an average of 17.8 per game. Houston's 11.5 average ranks ninth nationally for fewest turnovers per game in the latest NCAA rankings.

Houston's eight turnovers at SMU marked the fifth game this season the Cougars have recorded nine or fewer turnovers in a game this season. UH set a school record with just two turnovers against Grambling State and had just eight turnovers against Charleston and Southern, along with nine against Kentucky.

With its 11 turnovers against Marshall, Houston has recorded 13 or fewer turnovers 13 times overall this season. Houston also had 10 turnovers at Massachusetts and Texas Southern, 11 turnovers versus Marist and Coastal Carolina, 12 turnovers against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and 13 turnovers against Middle Tennessee and Arizona.

The Cougars enters the Memphis game leading Conference USA and ranked 17th nationally in free throw shooting with a .754 percentage after making 300 of their 398 free throws this season. The Cougars also rank fourth among C-USA teams in total free throws made this season. Individually, the Cougars boast the top two Conference USA individual free throw shooting leaders. Robert McKiver leads the league with a .854 percentage after making 82 of his 86 free throws this season. Lanny Smith ranks second with a .846 percentage after making 44 of his 52 free throws. Dion Dowell owns a .919 percentage after making 34 of his 37 attempts this year, but is two free throws shy of qualifying for the leaders.



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