Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13745380l) Houston forward J’Wan Roberts, second from right, reacts after making a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati, in Houston Cincinnati Basketball, Houston, United States – 28 Jan 2023
No. 2 Houston Cougars basketball tames short-handed Memphis Tigers in 72-64 victory
It was an electric atmosphere inside Fertitta Center as No. 2 Houston Cougars basketball clashed with conference rival the Memphis Tigers. Behind junior forward J’Wan Roberts’ double-double, UH edged Memphis, 72-64.
Houston and Memphis took turns feeling each other out during the first minutes of the game. With the score tied at 13, the Cougars (25-2, 13-1 American Athletic) turned up the heat against the Tigers and did so with their defense.
All afternoon long, UH swarmed and pestered Memphis around the perimeter and in the paint.
During one stretch in the first half, senior guard Marcus Sasser jumped in the air and tipped a pass attempt that turned into a loose ball on the floor. Redshirt freshman guard Emanuel Sharp dove for it to secure the possession for the Cougars.
On another possession, sophomore big man Ja’Vier Francis blocked a layup attempt by sixth-year senior DeAndre Williams. The play ignited a fast break for the Cougars, resulting in Francis converting an and-one layup on the other end.
Without fifth-year point guard Kendric Davis, who missed Sunday’s outing with an injury to his right ankle, the Tigers relied more on DeAndre Williams to provide the bulk of the offense. Williams, however, battled with foul trouble for much of the contest, which played in UH’s favor.
Houston’s big men—Roberts and senior Reggie Chaney—also rose to the challenge to match Williams’ play throughout the game.
Roberts, as has begun to become the norm for him, led UH in rebounds with 12 against Memphis. Against Memphis, he also strung together a strong offensive performance that saw him clean up missed shots at the rim, finish in the paint, and secure four offensive rebounds. He ended with 20 points, a new career-high, on Sunday.
Houston closed out the first half on a 19-8 run. However, it was Memphis that started the second half on fire, going on a 13-6 run of its own to pull within four points of the Cougars.
It was the closest the Tigers ever got, but they did get within five later in the period. Shortly after Memphis’ half-opening run, UH responded by outscoring the Tigers 9-2 during the next four-minute stretch.
The Cougars maintained around a 10-point cushion until the final four minutes of the game when the Tigers cut the lead to just 63-58. Memphis had two chances to get within three, but redshirt freshman guard Jonathan Lawson missed a reverse layup in transition with UH junior point guard Jamal Shead chasing him.
A few possessions later, Williams drove to his left and lost the ball into the hands of redshirt sophomore guard Tramon Mark. He then picked up his fifth foul by running into Mark. Houston made nine free throws down the stretch to ice the game. UH went 23-of-26 from the free-throw line for the game.
Sunday’s game was filled with highlight-reel quality plays. Shead, who had 10 points in the win, had an impressive crossover that left Memphis senior forward Malcolm Dandridge frozen in place as the Manor native blew past him and threw down a slam.
Sasser put together a nice game against Memphis as well. He ended the contest with 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field. Freshman guard Terrance Arceneaux returned to the floor for the Cougars after missing Thursday’s game against SMU with an ankle injury.
Sunday’s game had an attendance of 7,730 people. It set a new Fertitta Center record, beating the previous mark of 7,718 set this past December against Alabama.
With the win, Houston has put itself in a position to once again be the No. 1-ranked team in the polls after current No. 1 Alabama lost to No. 10 Tennessee on Wednesday. However, it is not a guarantee the Cougars move up.
Houston returns to the court when it hosts Tulane at 8 p.m. on Wednesday inside Fertitta Center. The game will air on ESPNU.