The Tigers managed to play 27 games over three months without suffering that most insidious of maladies: "the bad loss." Don't tell the Houston Cougars (now 11-4 in the cozy, near-empty confines of Hofheinz Pavilion), but tonight's defeat will hurt more than any of the Tigers' previous six. With tip-off against 7th-ranked Louisville less than 48 hours away, Memphis coach Josh Pastner has to hope his charges gain in motivation what they may have lost in spirit tonight.
The Tigers were never able to gain a significant lead (there were a total of 13 lead changes in the game), and suffered a 10-0 Houston run that bridged halftime and gave the Cougars a 40-33 edge early in the second half. Danuel House (19 points) and Jherrod Stiggers (14 points, four treys) provided the offensive punch behind Houston's all-conference candidate, TaShawn Thomas (16 points, 7 rebounds). House's three-pointer with 2:10 to play extended the Cougars' lead to five (68-63). Then, over the game's final 90 seconds, the Cougars hit nine of 11 free throws while the Tigers were unable to connect from long range or inside to close the gap.
The Tigers actually converted more field goals than Houston (28-24) but gave up eight three-pointers (while making three) and suffered a huge disparity in free throws, the Cougars hitting twice as many (21) as the Tigers took (nine for 10).
Michael Dixon led Memphis with 19 points off the bench. Shaq Goodwin scored 16 and pulled down 10 rebounds before fouling out late in the contest. Freshman forward Austin Nichols added 12 points (eight of them in the game's first six minutes). Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson combined to make only four of 15 shots from the field.
The loss drops the 21st-ranked Tigers to 21-7 and hurts their chances for securing a coveted top-three seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Now 10-5 in league play, the Tigers finish the regular season with three games against teams that have been ranked this season: Louisville (Saturday), Cincinnati (next Thursday), and SMU (March 8th).
Houston improves to 14-14 with the victory (6-9 in the AAC).