No. 4 Memphis thumps Houston 74-49

March 13, 2009 4:29:09 PM PDT
Robert Dozier scored 16 points and No. 4 Memphis became the first NCAA Division I program to win 30 games in four consecutive seasons Friday by beating Houston 74-49 in the Conference USA tournament semifinals. The Tigers (30-3) had been tied with Duke for wins in a four-year span coming into the game and now have 134 wins over the past four seasons.

Memphis will play either UAB or Tulsa in Saturday's championship, looking to pair a fourth straight C-USA tournament title with the Tigers' regular season titles. Shawn Taggart, Doneal Mack and Wesley Witherspoon each added 10 points.

Houston (21-11) was playing its third game in three days after finishing the second just 16 hours ago. The Cougars had their worst scoring game of the season.

Memphis has won 60 straight league games, second to Kentucky's 64 straight Southeastern Conference wins between 1945 and 1950.

Last year, Memphis had joined Kentucky, which did it twice, a year ago as the only Division I programs with three 30-win seasons in a row. UCLA joined those teams late last season.

The Cougars, in the semifinals for the third time in four years, needed overtime to beat Texas-El Paso in the last of the quarterfinals the night before. Kelvin Lewis had a team-high 18 points, and Aubrey Coleman, who had 24 against UTEP, had just 14 on 6-of-18 shooting.

The difference showed almost immediately as Memphis tried to run early and often to remind the Cougars just how tired they might be. Memphis led by double figures eight minutes into the game and sealed the victory with a 27-0 run early in the second half.

Lewis hit two free throws to open the second half. That was the last Houston would score until Lewis' three-point play at 9:56. By then, Memphis had scored 27 straight, a run highlighted by four straight free throws by Dozier after a hard foul from a frustrated Nick Mosley, who drew both a personal and technical.

Dozier hit all four, prompting a loud standing ovation from an arena filled with blue except for the Houston pep band, cheerleaders and a handful of supporters.

When Dozier later hit two more free throws to cap the 27-point spurt, Memphis was up 61-24 with 11:11 left.

Aubrey Coleman scored in the opening seconds for Houston's lone lead of the game. Memphis answered with Taggart's dunk. Tyreke Evans scored to put the Tigers ahead to stay at 18:26, and the Tigers took over. Dozier, who had just two points in the quarterfinal win over Tulane, hit a 3 from the left corner, and Doneal Mack added a 3.

Witherspoon's putback of Taggart's miss pushed the lead to double digits for the first time at 11:57 at 19-8, and Memphis led 34-22 at halftime. The Tigers outrebounded Houston 48-24 for the game, and Houston struggled to hit the basket, leaving shots short or off the front rim and missed 14 of their first 17 attempts. The Cougars finished 18-of-53 (34 percent).

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