MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—The Memphis Tigers are at their best defensively with both Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey on the court.
And they’re pretty good at the other end of the court, too.
Dozier scored 16 points, and Chris Douglas-Roberts added 14 to lead No. 16 Memphis to a 78-59 victory over Marshall on Monday night in the Conference USA opener for both teams. Setting the defensive tone early, Memphis (6-1) held the Thundering Herd to 33 percent shooting en route to its fourth straight win.
“On the whole, they took us out of a lot of things at the basket,” Marshall coach Ron Jirsa said. “They blocked our shot eight times early. I thought that was the difference in the game. They did a great job on us at the basket.”
The pressure caused enough turnovers to allow the Tigers to maintain a comfortable lead, eventually building the advantage to 33 points late in the game. Dorsey had four of the 11 Memphis blocks, and added four steals and 13 rebounds.
Dozier was 5-of-6 from the field and made all five of his free throws in addition to his two first-half blocks.
At times, Dozier and Dorsey have suffered through foul trouble in early season games providing only a glimpse of what they bring when they are on the floor together.
“When they are in together, it’s great for us because they’re both on the glass, and (Dozier) is a scoring presence down low,” Douglas-Roberts said.
“When we have both of them in at the same time, we’re in great shape.”
Tre Whitted led Marshall with 14 points, and Markel Humphrey had 12 and nine rebounds.
The victory, another runaway for the Tigers, was a little more satisfying for Memphis than Saturday’s 77-59 win over Manhattan. Memphis coach John Calipari thought his team looked a bit lackadaisical in the win over the Jaspers. Memphis players thought the intensity for Monday’s conference opener was better.
“We knew we played sloppy (against Manhattan),” Memphis senior guard Jeremy Hunt said. “We knew we played slow. I told the team that we couldn’t just come out. We needed to get right on them and jump the gun.”
Memphis built a double-digit lead in the first half, and maintained at least a 10-point advantage much of the rest of the game, although Marshall was able to slow the pace by switching to a zone defense.
“It’s tough stopping Memphis in zone or man-to-man,” Jirsa said. “We have played pretty good basketball, but not well enough to win close games. We wanted to play a little better tonight, and I thought, in spurts, we played better against a very good team.”
Memphis opened a 15-point lead midway through the first half and was dominating with pressure defense, forcing turnovers and giving the Tigers easy baskets. Meanwhile, the Thundering Herd struggled from the field, shooting 18 percent at the time.
When Marshall switched to the zone, the Tigers began settling for outside jumpers with little success, missing six of seven shots.
“We were getting every shot we wanted, we just weren’t making the shots,” Douglas-Roberts said. “A lot of teams are going to have to go to a zone or do halfcourt traps and press to slow us down because our offense is constantly running.”
Memphis struggled from the field in the opening stages of the second half, hitting only seven of its first 21 shots, but Marshall wasn’t shooting much better. The Tigers extended the lead to 59-34 when Dozier scored on a breakaway dunk with just over 10 minutes left, capping an 18-4 Memphis run.
Jirsa said his team had played well against other teams, just not well enough to win, such as a 72-70 loss to California. He didn’t want to change things that had worked early in the season, but hoped to do them better against a team ranked in the Top 20. Plus, he faced something no other C-USA team will face.
“No other team in our league is going to open up at Memphis,” Jirsa said. “That’s, right now, the toughest game any team could have to start this league.”