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Evans, free throws help Memphis hold off Houston

Mar 5, 2009 - 4:55 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Memphis received a rare test in Conference USA, but once again found a way to come out on top - thanks to some unusual success at the foul line.

Freshman Tyreke Evans scored 23 points and Robert Dozier added 15 as the third-ranked Tigers extended their conference winning streak to 57 games with a 69-60 victory over Houston on Wednesday.

"For all of us in college basketball, this is a long season; we're all worn down. Everybody has their issues and we're no different and for us to win on the road again, I'm happy," Tigers coach John Calipari said.

Memphis (27-3, 15-0 C-USA) outscored Houston, 46-24, in the paint and made all 14 of its free-throw attempts en route to its 21st consecutive win overall. The Tigers came into the contest shooting 69 percent from the foul line, which has been a known weakness for the team the past couple of seasons.

"We're a much better free-throw shooting team, not as good as Houston, but we're probably 70 percent now," Calipari said. "And you're talking about a team that was 50 percent last year."

The Cougars (18-10, 9-6) gave the Tigers all they could handle, erasing a 13-point first-half deficit to tie the score at 42-42 over five minutes into the second half.

After Memphis went back up by six, Houston again responded and leveled the contest at 50-50 on Aubrey Coleman's layup with 8:17 remaining.

"As you can see, we hung with them but we just couldn't pull it out," Coleman said. "That just tells me that they can be beat. It just comes down to making smart decisions and being tough at the end."

However, the Tigers went back in front for good with a 9-0 spurt - capped by Dozier's three-point play - to take a 59-50 advantage with 5:23 left to play.

Houston cut the deficit to 63-58 with over two minutes left but Memphis sealed the victory by going 6-for-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch.

"That was a gut-check game," Calipari said. "They never really went away. They had a chance to beat us the whole day. I'm getting scared right now we've got some guys that can play awful for 28 minutes and then come in the last seven and beat a team. That's really dangerous."

Coleman finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds and Qa'rraan Calhoun scored 15 to lead Houston, which shot 35 percent (22-of-63) from the field.

"It was an extremely hard-fought game," Houston coach Tom Penders said. "Memphis is one of those teams that always comes with intensity, particularly when we match up. Our kids had a tremendous amount of energy too, but we just didn't make enough shots to win the game."