When the Tigers and Houston played on January 23rd at FedExForum the Tigers came out like a team that had just lost its first conference game in almost four years (which they had three days earlier, to UTEP). Aubrey Coleman — the nation’s leading scorer — got his 32 points, but Memphis pulled away in the second half for a 15-point win. Five Tigers scored at least 10 points, two of them 20 (Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon). The U of M shot a blistering 62 percent that night.
Tonight in Houston? Not.
Memphis missed 10 of its first 12 shots and was down by 15 midway through the first half. Willie Kemp, Wesley Witherspoon, and Elliot Williams all missed their first three shots, and never got hot. Double-figure scoring? Two Tigers reached the mark, and no one had as many as 20 in the 92-75 loss. Wesley Witherspoon led the Tigers with 18 points. Elliot Williams had one of the worst games he’ll ever have with six points and five turnovers. Goodbye, four-game winning streak. (Could be worse. They’re not the Russian Olympic hockey team. Ouch.)
Coleman had his third straight 30-point effort against the Tigers (34), hitting 11 of 19 shots.
The victory ends an 11-game losing streak for Houston against the Tigers, and just about clinches the Conference USA regular-season title for UTEP. (The Miners beat Southern Miss tonight.) For a berth in the NCAA tournament, Memphis will have to win a fifth straight C-USA tourney.
The Tigers will host Southern Miss Saturday night. Their next objective will be staying in C-USA’s top four to secure a bye in the conference tourney, which starts two weeks from tonight in Tulsa. Memphis still has two fewer C-USA losses than Tulsa, currently in fifth place in the league. There’s a good chance that the Tiger-Tulsa game on March 6th at FEF will be for a bye.