The Commercial Appeal

Houston edges Davis-less Memphis

- Jason Munz Memphis Commercial Appeal USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE

HOUSTON — Memphis basketball cut second-ranked Houston’s lead to five points with 2:24 left in Sunday’s game at the Feritta Center.

Twenty-nine seconds later, the Tigers had a chance to make it a onepossess­ion game and make things real interestin­g. But redshirt freshman Johnathan Lawson’s fast-break layup attempt off the backboard hit only glass. The Cougars got the rebound and pulled away to secure the 72-64 victory.

The loss is just the second for Memphis (20-7, 10-4 AAC) in its last 10 games. Houston (25-2, 13-1) maintains its hold on first place in the AAC standings.

The Tigers did not have point guard Kendric Davis, the league’s leading scorer and top assist man, who sat out with a right ankle injury. But Penny Hardaway welcomed senior guard Alex Lomax and senior big man Malcolm Dandridge back to the lineup from their own injuries. Lomax (groin) had missed the past nine games, while Dandridge (left ankle) had been out since Dec. 13.

Elijah Mccadden led Memphis with 20 points, all scored in the second half, and Deandre Williams scored 18 before fouling out late in the second half.

Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s game:

No Kendric Davis is a problem

Davis strolled onto the court inside the Fertitta Center about 90 minutes before tip-off.

The Tigers’ star was in uniform and dribbling. He got up a few 3-pointers, went back to the locker room, then came back out and put up some more shots. The next time Davis came back on the floor, though, he was wearing a walking boot on his right leg and had changed out of his gameday attire.

Four days after sitting out the entire second half of Memphis’ win over UCF, Davis remained sidelined. Like it did

earlier this week, Davis’ absence took a major toll. Between the second half of the UCF game and the first half of Sunday’s game, Memphis scored just 41 points and committed 30 turnovers.

It is unclear whether Davis will be able to play when the Tigers travel to Wichita State on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2).

An ugly start

The first half could have been — probably should have been — worse.

Memphis committed a dizzying 14 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, as many or more than it had racked up in 18

full games this season. Williams and Dandridge accounted for three apiece in the first half.

Not having Davis has something to do with that. Not having a completely healthy Lomax does, too. Facing a team like Houston — which came into the game forcing teams to turn the ball over 14.2 times per game — plays into it as well.

But, thanks to the early sloppiness, the Cougars picked up enough steam to carry it through. Houston parlayed Memphis’ giveaways into 16 points and went into halftime up 32-21.

The second half was far better as the Tigers committed just four turnovers.

No answer for J’wan Roberts

Marcus Sasser, the AAC’S preseason pick for player of the year, gave Houston

the boost he typically does with 16 points.

But it was J’wan Roberts, Houston’s 6-foot-7 redshirt junior big man, who exceeded his season averages considerab­ly. The Tigers’ frontcourt had trouble finding an answer for Roberts, who scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Memphis tried a variety of defenses and multiple defenders to combat Roberts’ effectiven­ess. When the Tigers didn’t foul him, he was 6-for-10 from the field. When they did, he was 8-for-9 from the free-throw line.

It was his third straight game to reach double figures on the boards. Roberts came into the game averaging 9.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercial­ or on Twitter @munzly.

 ?? MARIA LYSAKER/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Houston guard Marcus Sasser, left, and Memphis guard Keonte Kennedy scramble for a loose ball during the first half at Fertitta Center.
MARIA LYSAKER/USA TODAY SPORTS Houston guard Marcus Sasser, left, and Memphis guard Keonte Kennedy scramble for a loose ball during the first half at Fertitta Center.

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