Cougars fall apart against Memphis
For 20 minutes Saturday, Aubrey Coleman kept the Cougars close to the lead by wreaking havoc on the Memphis Tigers’ defense.
The senior guard shined in front of the national audience on ESPN2. He made difficult shots, drove to the basket, drew fouls and nailed his free throws.
In the second half, Coleman stepped up his game and made trickier shots. However, his teammates were unable to keep pace.
Despite receiving 32 points from Coleman, UH fell to Memphis 92-77 on Saturday at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.
In a slow-moving, physical game that featured 46 fouls, the Cougars (10-9, 3-3 Conference USA) were essentially a one-man show. Meanwhile, Memphis (14-5, 4-1) gave a total team effort as five players scored in double figures as the Tigers shot 61.2 percent.
UH head coach Tom Penders said that despite the loss, he was proud of his team’s effort.
“They were hitting on all cylinders and these things happen, especially when you’re on the road,” Penders said. “We were hustling, getting to loose balls, so it wasn’t like we were embarrassed.”
Guards Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon led the way for the Tigers, combining for 40 points and 13 rebounds.
Coleman scored 18 points in the first half to carry the Cougars to a 39-39 tie at the break. He was even better in a second half when the Tigers were pulling away, as he made four of his first five shot attempts.
Memphis made sure to clamp down on Coleman’s sidekick, as UH’s second-leading scorer Kelvin Lewis (17 points per game entering Saturday) scored only five points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Kendrick Washington’s performance was one of few positives for the Cougars, who now sit in sixth place in the C-USA standings. The freshman forward contributed 11 points (5-of-5 shooting) and four rebounds off the bench. His aggressive play in the paint, combined with Maurice McNeil’s 11 rebounds, allowed UH to hold its own in the rebounding battle.
“They played hard,” Penders said. “I thought Kendrick played a really strong game. For a freshman I thought it was a really strong performance.”
The Cougars missed five of their first six shots in the second half, allowing the Tigers to take control of the contest for good.
Memphis, meanwhile, shot 5-of-7 in the first five minutes of the second half to stretch its lead to 54-41. The Tigers scored six points off four UH turnovers during their 15-2 burst.
“We had two or three turnovers to start the second half, and they turned them into buckets,” Penders said. “When you’re on the road against a really good team, its hard to recover from that.”
“They got it going and we could never get back in it. Unforced turnovers really hurt us.”
Memphis quelled any chances of a comeback by feasting on a worn-down UH defense, which allowed the Tigers to connect on eight of their next 13 shots.
Much like previous losses to Memphis, the Cougars hung with the Tigers in the first half.
After both teams traded jumpers to begin the contest, Witherspoon helped Memphis gain an early advantage. The Tigers went on a 9-1 run, fueled by six points from Witherspoon, to take an 11-3 lead with 17:35 left in the first half.
A Coleman slam on a fast-break assist from point guard Desmond Wade cut the Cougars’ deficit to 23-20 with 7:24 remaining before halftime.
Memphis pushed its lead to 30-23 at the 5:56 mark, but UH countered with an 11-1 run to capture a 34-31 lead with 2:24 left in the first.
UH will receive a break from its usual Wednesday game this week before resuming C-USA play against Marshall on Saturday. The Thundering Herd (15-4, 4-1), which lost to UAB 61-59 on Saturday, and the Cougars will tip off at 5 p.m. inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
Additional reporting provided by Phillipe Craig