Houston, which has only wins against Sam Houston State (in overtime) and SMU away from home this season, is also trying to avoid a three-game slide after taking a 76-64 tumble versus UTEP in El Paso on Saturday night. With that setback, the Cougars dipped to 4-8 in conference and that has the group struggling to stay out of the basement.
As for the Tigers, they had a chance to ease towards the top of the standings over the weekend, but a 67-52 loss at Rice kept that from happening. The defeat snapped a four-game win streak by the squad, but at least Memphis remains within striking distance of the premier programs in C-USA with a mark of 8-4.
Memphis leads the all-time series by a count of 24-12 at the moment, yet the Cougars have taken two straight meetings, the most recent of those coming last season in the Conference USA Championship Game by a score of 66-65.
Alandise Harris scored a team-best 18 points and pulled down six rebounds, remaining on the floor for just 24 minutes due to foul problems, yet the team still took a fall against the Miners at the Don Haskins Center. Maurice McNeil added 13 points and Zamal Nixon another 11 and six assists, but between those three double-digit scorers they also accounted for 11 of the unit's 18 turnovers. In the last three games, Houston has had a different leading scorer each time out and that hasn't helped with consistency and stability. Nevertheless, this is still a group that has trouble producing points and is currently averaging just 69.1 ppg. Thankfully, Houston is holding foes to just 41.7 percent shooting from the floor and 30.3 percent beyond the arc, resulting in 68.2 ppg, so games tend to be close if nothing else. Adam Brown is listed as the top scorer with 13.3 ppg, thanks to his 44.7 percent out on the perimeter, but right behind him with 13.2 ppg is McNeil who is also the top rebounder with 7.8 rpg. Pity though that McNeil is making just 55.9 percent at the free-throw line and has a grand total of only 11 assists and 52 turnovers in close to 700 minutes of playing time.
The 52 points scored by the Tigers was their lowest output of the season and marked just the second time in 2010-11 that the squad had been held below 60 points. Not a single one of the starting five was able to put up double digits, the group combining to make just 6-of-25 from the field in the awful showing. Antonio Barton came off the bench to post 14 points, and Wesley Witherspoon chipped in with eight points and six rebounds, but it made little difference as the entire unit made just 35.4 percent from the field and 3- of-17 behind the three-point line, not to mention turned the ball over 19 times. Will Barton, with his 34 triples, leads the team in scoring with 13.2 ppg, but his accuracy out on the perimeter is just 28.8 percent, so he is far from a reliable scoring source on the outside. Witherspoon checks in with 10.9 ppg, but in his case he's played just 16 of the team's 27 games. Speaking of a lack of consistency, only one player has started every game for the Tigers, with Joe Jackson turning the trick and coming up with 9.4 ppg and a team-best 92 assists as a result.
Memphis has camped out at home for most of the season, putting up a 15-2 record in its own building, so it doesn't really matter how the starting lineup is juggled and who ends up on the floor in the final minutes, there's clearly an advantage of playing in the FedExForum and the Tigers will take advantage of that.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 69, Houston 63