Tonight's game in Houston wasn't all that different from driving the streets of Memphis in freezing rain. As long as the Tigers held steady, avoiding awkward stops and starts, they'd reach the desired destination of a 13th win.
Two years ago, the Tigers went off the road and the Owls delivered perhaps the most embarrassing loss in four years under coach Josh Pastner. Were it not for an unlikely run to the C-USA tournament championship, that loss at Rice may have kept Memphis out of the 2011 NCAA tournament. There will be no such scenario this year.
The Tigers actually trailed by two (20-18) five minutes before halftime, but utilized a 9-0 run (built with seven made free throws) to enter the break with a 31-24 lead. Memphis endured a seven-minute stretch without a made field goal but still led comfortably after 20 minutes.
Rice pulled within five points (38-33) three minutes into the second half, only to see Antonio Barton and Adonis Thomas drain consecutive three-pointers. The margin would not get below 10 points the remainder of the game. The Tigers capitalized on their size advantage, dominating the glass with 41 rebounds to the Owls' 19. Point guard Joe Jackson led Memphis with a career-high 12 boards and scored 13 points (his 12th straight game with at least 10). Four other Tigers scored in double figures: Shaq Goodwin (10), Adonis Thomas (12), Antonio Barton (13), and Tarik Black (12).
The win improves the U of M record to 13-3 (3-0 in C-USA). Memphis returns home for a nonconference game against Harvard Saturday at FedExForum (tip-off will be at 11:30 a.m.). The contest will be the first for the Tigers against an Ivy League school since December 20, 1988 (a win over Dartmouth).