The task was tough: knock of the No. 19-ranked Houston Cougars on their home court. Memphis was game but not nearly tough enough as the Tigers fell 90-77 on Sunday night.
Kareem Brewton Jr. had a career-high 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, Jeremiah Martin added 16 points and eight rebounds and Kyvon Davenport scored 17 points for Memphis (9-6, 1-1).
“They were more physical,” Brewton said. “We have to pick it up. This has happened in three, four games in like our biggest games.”
The Tigers shot 48 percent but committed 17 turnovers. They saw their four-game winning streak snapped. Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said Houston’s energy and toughness overtook the Tigers.
“We always talk about punching first and hitting first coming out of the gate,” Hardaway said. “Again today, I don’t know why, but we weren’t ready at the start of the game and got them in a good rhythm.”
After Memphis cut it to 57-51 on Martin’s layup with 14 minutes remaining, Houston responded with a 17-4 run to build a 19-point lead on Jarreau’s layup with 9:40 remaining. Brooks had nine points in the run. The Tigers got no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
After Brewton’s jumper cut Houston’s lead to 24-20 with eight minutes left in the first half, the Cougars responded with an 8-0 run to take a 32-20 lead with 6:55 remaining before halftime. Houston led 45-34 at the half.
When Houston needed a spark, Armoni Brooks came through for the Cougars.
Brooks scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half and hit four of his six 3-pointers.
Nate Hinton added 19 points and nine rebounds, Corey Davis Jr and Galen Robinson Jr each had 11 points and DeJon Jarreau scored 10 points. The Cougars (15-0, 2-0 American) extended their home-winning streak to a nation-best 28 games.
“We can score the ball,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We can score different ways. We have guys that can shoot; we have guys that can drive it.”
Houston shot 45 percent, including 50 percent in the second half, and hit 12 of 34 3-pointers.
Memphis: The Tigers continue to be competitive, with four of their six losses coming to ranked teams. Memphis was outhustled throughout, with Houston holding advantages in rebounds, steals and turnovers. Outside of Brewton, Martin and Davenport, Memphis got 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
“We are 0-5 in big games this year, and we lost all of them because of the same reason,” Hardaway said of Memphis’ physicality.
“To me, it’s time for everyone to wake up and understand that if we are going to make the NCAA Tournament, we are going to have to beat teams like Houston. We are going to have to be more physical; we are going to have to hit first; and we have to put everything else that we are going through aside.”
Houston: The Cougars had 28 points off 17 Memphis turnovers, outrebounded the Tigers 39-32, including 18-7 on the offensive glass. … The Cougars played well throughout even with Davis, their leading scorer, on the bench for the final 16 minutes of the first half with two fouls. . Houston had 20 assists on 33 made field goals.
With the 2-0 week, Houston should move up in the rankings.
Memphis: Hosts East Carolina on Thursday night.
Houston: At Temple on Wednesday night.