HOUSTON (AP)—The Memphis Tigers dominated inside and hit 3-pointers when they needed them to win their first true road game of the season.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 16 points, Joey Dorsey grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots, and No. 20 Memphis beat Houston 79-69 Thursday night.
The Tigers (12-3, 2-0 Conference USA) lost at Arizona and Tennessee last month and talked about the importance of winning on another team’s home floor before Thursday’s game.
“We know we can get the ones at home,” said Jeremy Hunt, who scored 14. “But to come into somebody else’s place and be mentally tough enough to pull out the victory, that means a lot.”
Robert Dozier had 12 points and three blocks for the Tigers, who’ve won four in a row and six of their last seven.
Memphis is Conference USA’s top-scoring team, but the Tigers beat the Cougars with their defense as much as their offense, holding Houston to 43 percent shooting (26-of-60).
Memphis also outrebounded the Cougars 35-26 and scored 40 points in the paint.
“I didn’t realize we’d be that big and I didn’t realize we’d be able to get the ball inside,” said Memphis coach John Calipari. “It was a good test. It was what we needed.”
But Calipari wasn’t happy with the Tigers’ 20 turnovers, blaming them on mental lapses when the Cougars turned to their full-court press.
“They’re aggressive and scrappy and they’ll take it from you if you get complacent,” Calipari said.
The Tigers went 2-1 at the Maui Invitational, then played eight of their next 10 games at the FedEx Forum. Memphis plays at Southern Miss on Saturday, returns home to face UAB, then visits East Carolina.
“You’ve got to break the seal,” Calipari said, “and now, start winning road games.”
Robert McKiver scored 27, but only 10 in the second half, to lead the Cougars (5-8, 0-1), who’ve lost five in a row and six of their last seven.
Memphis built an early nine-point lead with a 9-0 spurt, fueled by Houston miscues. Dozier finished a fast break with a layup and Hunt sank a 3-pointer, both off Cougars’ turnovers, to put Memphis up 14-5.
The Tigers led 20-13 when Jahmar Thorpe rebounded a 3-point miss by McKiver with one hand and dunked it to trigger an 8-2 spurt. McKiver swished a pair of 3-pointers to cut the Tigers’ lead to 22-21.
Houston trailed by three when Memphis mounted a 13-3 burst to push the lead into double digits. Douglas-Roberts converted a three-point play after another Houston turnover and Antonio Anderson hit a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 39-26 lead.
Memphis led 47-33 at the break after hitting 18 of 28 shots (64 percent). The Tigers dominated inside at both ends in the half, outrebounding Houston 19-14, blocking four shots and scoring 24 points in the paint.
“They’re really good inside,” said Houston coach Tom Penders. “We still wanted to pound it in there. You don’t want to just come out and settle for the 3s because they’re there.”
McKiver was 6-of-10, with five 3-pointers, and had 17 points at the break. The rest of the team missed 14 of 19 shots in the opening half.
“He carried us for a while, but he can’t do it forever,” Penders said of McKiver. “You need to get a little more production and we didn’t get it from our guys.”
McKiver swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key 20 seconds into the second half and Thorpe scored inside to draw the Cougars to within nine. Andre Allen answered with a 3-pointer and Dozier muscled in for a bank shot to stretch the lead to 15.
Hunt hit a 3-pointer after Dorsey grabbed an offensive rebound and Allen turned a steal into a breakaway layup to extend the lead to 59-40 by the 14-minute mark.
The Tigers stayed comfortably ahead the rest of the way, controlling the boards and finally pinning down McKiver, who missed five of eight shots in the second half.
Thorpe added 14 points for the Cougars but Oliver Lafayette, the team’s second-leading scorer, went 3-for-10 and scored six. Dion Dowell, averaging 17.5 points per game, went 1-for-5 and had only four.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Penders said. “But they’re a top-10 team. We tried to match their intensity and, at times, we did.”