Memphis never trails, coasts to easy win over Rice

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis celebrated its return to the Top 25 by coasting through another Conference USA win.

Robert Dozier had 13 points and nine rebounds to lead Memphis (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) to its ninth straight victory, an 80-52 win against Rice on Wednesday night.

Doneal Mack added 14 points for Tigers (15-3, 5-0 Conference USA), who never trailed in the game. And with the easy victory, Memphis is now able to concentrate on Saturday's game against cross-state rival Tennessee in Knoxville.

"We wanted to get this game over so we could get to Saturday," Dozier said.

The Tigers put away any worries about overlooking the Owls early, getting off to a fast start, never trailing in the game, and continuing to pull away.

Memphis led by as many as 22 in the first half and held a 47-28 lead at the break. The advantage would eventually reach 31 in the second half.

"We needed a game like this where we could have a great start early," said guard Antonio Anderson (six points, five assists). "Get out on a team and stay on them.

"We got to them a little bit, pressed them, and wore them down."

Connor Frizzelle led Rice (6-12, 1-3) with 16 points and nine rebounds, and Rodney Foster finished with 13 points. Cory Pflieger, the only Rice player scoring in double figures at 10.4 points a game, was scoreless, taking only one shot.

The Owls committed 21 turnovers and shot only 36 percent.

"We talked so much about our ability to be able to handle pressure early in the game," Rice coach Ben Braun said. "I think that was something that we got off to a poor start with.

"Memphis built up a lead, and when you climb into a hole like we did, it makes it really difficult against really good teams."

Memphis, which returned to the AP Top 25 this week after a four-week absence, won its 47th straight conference game, including the postseason.

The Tigers were well aware that other Top 25 teams, including top-ranked Wake Forest, lost Wednesday, as did Tulsa, one of the Tigers' chief rivals in C-USA.

"You know Tulsa loses to Tulane. Northwestern beats Michigan State at Michigan State. Wake Forest loses at home to Virginia Tech," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "And this little ol' train down in Memphis just keeps chugging along. If we get this right, we're going to be fine."

Mack scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Memphis shot 46 percent from long range.

The active Memphis defense forced 12 Rice turnovers in the first half and kept the Owls shooting well under 40 percent.

Foster scored the Owls' first 11 points. Lawrence Ghoram scored inside with 11:13 left in the half for the first non-Foster points for Rice.

Nothing seemed to go right for Rice. The offense really never was smooth as Memphis continually put pressure on the Owls, forcing turnovers and bad shots.

Meanwhile, Memphis shot well, going to the locker room at 47 percent.

"We came in and knocked them out early," Dozier said.