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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Men's Basketball

UH hits the road against Memphis

The Cougars won’t have any time to lick their wounds after Wednesday’s disappointing home loss to Central Florida, as they jump back into the fray with a matchup against one of the top teams in Conference USA.

UH (10-8, 3-2 C-USA) travels to Memphis, Tenn. to take on the Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday. Memphis (13-5, 3-1), the C-USA regular-season and tournament champion for the last four seasons, is coming off a 72-67 loss to UTEP on Wednesday at FedExForum. For the Tigers, it was the first conference loss in nearly four years, a span covering 64 four games and 1,419 days.

Head coach Tom Penders knows Memphis will be eager to start another streak and will present a challenge for the Cougars.

“They’re a very good basketball team, and I don’t see any real weaknesses. They may not have the lottery picks like (former players) Derek Rose or Tyreke Evans, but they’ve got good guards and I don’t see a huge drop-off in talent,” Penders said. “You just have to hope they’re down abut their loss, but I don’t expect it.”

Sophomore guard Elliot Williams, a Duke transfer who averages 20.1 points per game, leads Memphis. After allowing UCF’s Marcus Jordan to score 23 points on 9-of-9 shooting, the Cougars will need a much better effort to contain Williams and his trio of scoring sidekicks in Wesley Witherspoon, Roburt Sallie and Doneal Mack, who are all averaging in double digits.

“They don’t have one guy that they’re going to go to down the stretch,” Penders said. “Elliot is one of their keys, though. When he goes for 20-plus, they’re pretty much unbeatable, but he’s got supporters that can hurt you.”

Williams has had a pair of 30-plus point games recently, and Penders knows that limiting him to his usual production, if not less, will be job No. 1.

“You have to know where he is all the time,” Penders said. “You have to make sure that if he makes buckets, he earns it.”

For the Cougars, bouncing back from Wednesday’s 25.4-percent shooting performance will be key, as allowing the Tigers to get out to a fast start, much like UCF did, could prove deadly. UH held its only lead against the Knights at 4-1 less than two minutes into the contest and UFC used a 20-4 run to put UH in a hole it could never dig itself out of.

“You don’t want to talk about shooting too much,” Penders said. “But when you come off a shooting performance like (Wednesday’s), you hope the guys can learn and look past it.”

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