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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Houston coach James Dickey tried to warn his team that No. 23 Memphis would play with plenty of intensity Thursday night after losing two straight American Athletic Conference home games.
He was right.
Memphis jumped out to an early lead behind Shaq Goodwin, and the Cougars never really were in the game during an 82-59 defeat.
"You don't lose two games at home when you have a great program like (the Tigers) do here and not be a little bit unhappy," Dickey said. "They didn't do anything that surprised me, and I tried to impart upon our players that this was what the level of intensity and emotion was going to be. ... They didn't let up."
TaShawn Thomas led Houston (11-8, 3-3 AAC) with 14 points and Brandon Morris added 13. LeRon Barnes finished with 10 points, connecting on all four shots from the field.
L.J. Rose had 10 assists for the Cougars, who shot 42.6 percent and committed 18 turnovers in losing for the third time in four games.
"They're a very tough team, mentally and physically," Dickey said. "That's something we need to improve on the road. It shows up in defense, discipline and then execution."
Goodwin had 20 points, while Joe Jackson added 18 points and seven assists for Memphis. The Tigers (14-4, 4-2) never trailed and led by 17 in the first half of their fourth win in five games. Memphis lost its previous two conference home games, to Cincinnati and Connecticut.
Memphis has not dropped its first three home games in conference play since the 1969-70 season in the Missouri Valley Conference.
"It was about energy. We've got to have energy," Tigers coach Josh Pastner said. "We are a very good basketball team when we play with great energy."
Memphis had 15 turnovers but overcame them with 59 percent shooting. The Tigers held a 48-36 advantage in the paint and outrebounded Houston 33-28.
Memphis dominated the first half — particularly inside — and shot 61 percent before the break. That helped the Tigers open a 17-point advantage before taking a 47-32 lead into halftime.
Goodwin, who scored 16 in the half, was free inside on numerous occasions, leading to a handful of dunks. Michael Dixon complemented Goodwin's inside game by missing only one of his five shots in the opening 20 minutes. He connected on both 3-pointers and scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half.
"It was kind of matador. We got out of the way," Dickey said of his team's early defense on Goodwin. "I thought Shaq did a good job of establishing himself early. We made some bad rotations. We had some switches where they took great advantage of it."
Houston struggled in most facets during the first half, hitting at a 40 percent clip but missing seven of its eight shots from long range. The Cougars also committed 11 turnovers and finished the night 2 of 14 from outside the arc.
Thomas, the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game, had seven in the first half and hit all three of his shots from the floor.
Memphis maintained its large lead throughout the second half as Houston was never really able to make much of a dent.