Men's Basketball

HOUSTON (AP) — Dion Dowell scored 19 points and Robert McIver added 18 as Houston matched its best start since the days of Phi Slama Jama with an 83-69 victory over Kentucky on Tuesday night.

Tafari Toney had nine points and eight rebounds and Lanny Smith had eight assists for the Cougars (10-1), who are off to their best start since the 1983-84 team won 10 of its first 11. That team, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, lost to Georgetown in the NCAA championship game.

Joe Crawford scored 28 points and Jodie Meeks had 21 in his return from an injury for the Wildcats (4-5), who have lost four straight for the first time since 1989-90 when Rick Pitino’s first Kentucky team dropped five in a row.

The sharp-shooting Meeks had missed the last six games with a stress fracture in his pelvic area.

The Cougars outrebounded Kentucky 38-33 and forced 18 turnovers to overcome 36 percent shooting.

Houston led 45-33 at halftime, then pulled away with defense and rebounding.

The Wildcats went the final 6:21 of the first half without a field goal, missing four shots and committing four turnovers. Michael Porter hit a 3-pointer from the corner 17 seconds into the second half to snap Kentucky’s field goal drought.

But the Cougars went back to the smothering zone defense they used in the first half, and the Wildcats promptly committed two turnovers and lost their shooting touch again.

Toney hit a free throw and McIver made a 3-pointer from the wing to start a decisive 16-5 run. Toney scored twice on putbacks to extend the lead to 53-37.

Crawford picked off a steal, drove for a layup and converted a three-point play with 14:36 left. But the 6-foot-8 Toney turned another offensive rebound into a three-point play at the other end.

Houston’s lead went over 20 and the Wildcats’ frustration boiled over not long after that, when Crawford wrapped up Mark Malone and was called for an intentional foul. The two played faced off briefly before a referee stepped between them.

Kentucky made a mild run too late. Crawford converted a three-point play with 2:52 left to cut Houston’s lead to 74-64. The Cougars broke the Wildcats’ full-court press and Kelvin Lewis finished the fast break with an alley-oop pass to Dowell for a dunk.

Meeks carried Kentucky’s offense in the first half, scoring 17 points.

The Cougars came in averaging more than 10 3-pointers per game, but they missed nine of their first 14 attempts. Brockeith Pane and Dion Dowell both hit one as Houston finished the half with a 10-0 run.

Houston retired Michael Young’s No. 42 jersey at halftime. Young was a starter on the Cougars’ Phi Slama Jama teams that reached three Final Fours between 1982-84.

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