• Houston struggled on both sides of the ball as Memphis took down the Cougars to likely knock them out of the Top 25.
By Associated Press
February 23, 2018

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Houston struggled offensively, and its usual tough defense was missing in the second half.

It looks as if it might be a short stay in the Top 25 for the Cougars.

No. 23 Houston, which entered the AP poll this week for the first time this season, gave up a season high in points and suffered through a dismal second-half shooting performance Thursday in a 91-85 loss to Memphis, ending a five-game winning streak.

Jimario Rivers and Raynere Thornton each scored 21 points as Memphis (17-11, 8-7 American Athletic Conference) earned its third straight victory. Rivers also grabbed nine rebounds and Thornton made four 3-pointers.

Rob Gray had 30 points and seven assists for Houston. Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis Jr. each scored 15 points.

The Cougars (21-6, 11-4) shot 32.3 percent from the field in the second half.

''We just missed a lot of open shots,'' Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. ''The same shots we've been making almost all year, didn't go in. But give Memphis credit for making theirs. They made a lot of shots tonight.''

Memphis claimed its biggest victory of the season, holding on after leading scorer Jeremiah Martin left in the first half with a lower-body injury.

''I'm really proud of how our guys competed, especially without Jeremiah,'' Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. ''But it just raised up everyone else's level of play and their intensity. We had good balance throughout the lineup.''

The Tigers shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, including 4 for 8 from 3-point range.

Houston led 43-37 at the break, but fell apart in the second half. Eventually, a 16-4 Memphis rally erased the Cougars' advantage.

''I have a mantra that I always live by,'' Sampson said. ''In games like this, the toughest team usually wins and the toughest team won.''

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