Saturday , Mar , 04 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Memphis can clinch outright C-USA title with win over Houston

=== Memphis can clinch outright C-USA title with win over Houston ===

(Sports Network) – The third-ranked Memphis Tigers missed a golden
opportunity to clinch the outright Conference USA title this week, as their
extended 15-game win streak and perfect conference record ended with an 80-74
loss at UAB. John Calipari’s squad gets another chance to win the
conference crown, as they close out their regular season with a home
matchup against the Houston Cougars.

Houston is trying to win its 20th game of the season and is sitting a bit
further down the conference ladder with a 9-4 league ledger. The team has
played exceptionally well down the stretch, posting nine wins in the last 10
games, including a 74-71 decision over the Rice Owls on Wednesday. The Tigers
own a 13-10 edge in the all-time series and have won seven of the last 10
meetings. However, it was Houston that posted the victory last year, a 66-53
victory at home.

Houston plays solid defense and that is the main reason for the team’s
successful season to this point. The team is allowing just 65.3 ppg, while
foes are shooting .419 from the floor. The offense has been streaky and
inconsistent at best, leading to 73.9 ppg. One player that epitomizes that is
leading scorer Oliver Lafayette. The veteran guard is averaging a healthy 16.1
ppg, but is doing so on just .371 shooting. Ramon Dyer and Lanny Smith provide
some scoring support with 12.3 and 12.0 ppg, respectively. Dyer paces the team
on the boards (6.2 rpg), while Smith has served up a team-high 139 assists.
One glaring weakness for Houston has come on the glass, where the team suffers
a -6.0 rebounding margin.

In the win over Rice this week, Lafayette led the way with 22 points, on 7-
of-18 shooting. Smith poured in 17 points, followed by Jahmar Thorpe’s 10.
Thorpe completed a double-double with 12 rebounds. Coming off the bench,
Chris Lawson was able to chip in 10 points in 21 minutes of work.

The Tigers will try to take advantage of Houston’s lack of aggressiveness on
the boards. Memphis leads the conference in rebounding margin at +6.7 and is
also averaging over 10 steals a game (10.2). In addition, this is one of the
nation’s top offensive squads, averaging a robust 82.8 ppg. Senior forward
Rodney Carney is clearly one of the top players in the league, with the
ability to score anywhere on the floor. He is averaging almost 18 points per
game (17.9) and is shooting nearly 40 percent from long range (85-of-214).
Darius Washington Jr. adds 14.0 ppg from the perimeter, while freshman
sensation Shawne Williams has really made an impact on this team, with 13.0
points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game.

The Tigers went cold from the floor in the second half at UAB, going
scoreless for more than eight minutes, as they dropped their first conference
game, as well as first road contest of the year. Washington led the way in
defeat with 17 points. Carney added 16, while center Joey Dorsey registered
a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds.