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January 24, 2014

Tigers thump Houston, 82-59

The No. 23 ranked Memphis Tigers (14-4, 4-2) wanted to please Tiger Nation and get a win at home in conference play. Memphis entered the game with an 0-2 home conference record hanging over their heads.

With March gradually approaching us, it was time for Memphis to put the critics on mute for one week and get a win that was much needed.

From jump start, the Tigers were hitting on all cylinders and the Houston Cougars didn't have a single answer for them. The guards came out with a lot of energy and the big men for the Tigers played at a high level. With effort from the Tigers on both ends of the court, the Tigers were able to get their first home conference win over the Houston Cougars (11-8, 3-3) by the final score of 82-59.

"I was really proud of our young men, because Houston, like I said, is a really good basketball team. That's a very good team. They are talented. They have good players, really good players," Pastner said after the game. "That's a very good basketball team we played. They are a 41 percent three-point shooting team and tonight we held them to 14 percent."

In the opening minutes of the game, Memphis jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with senior guard Geron Johnson scoring the first two points for Memphis from the free throw line. From there, it would become the Shaq Goodwin show. Memphis would have complete control of the game in the earlier minutes with an 14-4 advantage at the15:35 mark. Goodwin scored 12 of his team's 14 points and all of them came in the paint. Houston would answer with a 5-0 run to cut the lead to 14-9 with a three made by Jherrod Stiggers.

The Cougars would get as close as three points to Memphis in the first half, but with their lack of effort on defense, the Tigers simply had their way with the Cougars on the offensive end of the basketball. At the 12:33 mark in the first half, Memphis was up 18-15. As a team, the Tigers shot 60.7 percent (17-of-28) from the field and 42.9 percent (3-of-7) from the three-point line. They also won the rebounding battle 19-17. The biggest impact from the Tigers came in the paint with 24 points scored.

The chemistry for the Tigers' backcourt seems to be helping this team get ready for the remainder of their games. Senior forward David Pellom and Goodwin are clicking on the court together and it's happening at the right time.

"Pellom and Shaq play well together. They kind of feed off of each other," said Pastner. "People just feed off of Shaq because of his energy. The more energized Shaq is, the more people feed off of him."

As for the Cougars, they couldn't find a rhythm on offense as their shots weren't falling. As a team, they shot 40 percent (12-of-30) from the field and 12.5 percent (1-of-8) from deep. No player on Houston's roster scored in double figures in the first half. Their star player TaShawn Thomas had only seven points in the first half. They would go into halftime down 47-32 to the Tigers.

Goodwin led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points, three rebounds and while shooting 75 percent (6-of-8) from the field. Senior guard Michael Dixon added 11 points at the end of the first period. Dixon shot 80 percent (4-of-5) from the field while making two of three from beyond the arc.

In the second half, senior guard Joe Jackson would get things going with a made layup at the 18:56 mark. From there, Memphis kept the momentum and didn't allow the Cougars to make a run to cut the lead into single digits. Houston didn't take smart shots and the stats sheet revealed the evidence. As a team, they shot 45.8 percent (11-of-24) from the field, 16.7 percent (1-of-6) from beyond the arc, and 36.4 percent (4-of-11) from the free throw line.

Three players for the Cougars would finish the game scoring in double figures. Thomas led the team with 14 points. Brandon Morris had 13 points. LeRon Barnes pitched in 10 points.

Memphis also had three of their players to finish the game in double figures. Goodwin scores only four points in the second half, but managed to finish as the team's leading scorer with 20 points along with grabbing six rebounds. Jackson had a better second half scoring 13 points to finish with 18 points totaled. Michael Dixon had a decent shooting night going 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) from the field to finish the game with 13 points.

The Tigers won the rebounding battle 33-28. The Tigers scored 48 of their 82 points in the paint with the penetration of great guard play and great finishing at the rim by the big men. As mentioned before, Memphis thrives best on offense when they are able to get out in the open floor. It was that type of night for Memphis as they scored 20 points in transition.

With this win out of the way, coach Pastner and the Tigers now turns their attention towards South Florida. Pastner is not taking this team for granted.

"South Florida and coach Heath, I mean this is a good basketball team. They are very well-coached. The guy have been to multiple NCAA tournaments at Arkansas, took Kent State to the elite eight. The guy can flat out coach," said Pastner when he spoke about USF. "They are (South Florida) as big of a team in the league. They have got good perimeter players."

Memphis will resume play in the American Athletic Conference on Sunday at the FedEx Forum against the South Florida Bulls. The game is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on CBSS.


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