HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – The Cougars have lost two-straight road contests since reeling off five consecutive home wins. The last was a 74-63 road loss at UCF on Wednesday night. They’re back at the friendly confines of Hofheinz Pavilion for a one-game pit-stop to face an 11-5 Memphis team that is 2-0 in conference play. They get back on the road to face SMU on the 18th.
But, in the meantime, Head Coach James Dickey looks to make some much-needed adjustments to his young team while at home.
“The biggest thing is consistent defensively and rebounding,” says Dickey. “You cannot give up offensive rebounds like we did against Central Florida. They’re big and they do a good job. But, we just did not bow up and compete like we need to on the boards.”
The Cougars were outrebounded on the offensive glass 27-13, while winning on the defensive glass 21-17. However, second chance points and put-backs are opportunities lost when losing on the offensive end and the Cougars had their chances, says Dickey.
“As badly as we rebounded with about 6 minutes to go in the game, we were still right there and we had three consecutive turnovers; got to value the basketball on the road as well as at home.”
The Cougars were down 58-51 with 6:23 remaining. But from the 7:12 mark of the second half to the 3:44 mark, the Cougars committed 4 turnovers. More telling, Dickey’s group committed 15 for the game, while Shawn Finney’s group committed a total of 6.
MUST RUN FASTER – WORK HARDER
The Cougars got double-digit scoring from sophomore forward Alandise Harris with 16 and freshman forward, TaShawn Thomas with 14. The two next high scorers were freshman guard Joseph Young and junior forward Kirk Van Slyke with 7 points each.
But, they will need to come out much faster and with more production against Memphis who ranks 2nd to the Cougars in scoring offense. While the top cat in C-USA averages 76.6 ppg, the Tigers are right on their heels at 75.1 ppg. The Tigers also trail the top cat Cougars only slightly in field goal percentage, 48.3 to 48.1%.
Houston also leads C-USA with 39.2 % three-point shooting. Right there at number two is Memphis at 38.7. The Cougars also hold the offensive rebounding edge, 36.8 to 35.9. However, they are ranked 8th and 9th respectively in that conference category. Also, while Houston is the 10th ranked defensive rebounding team averaging 35.1 per game, Memphis is dead last at 35.8 per game.
But, regardless of the rankings, this is the same Memphis team that has won 5-straight including wins over Tennessee, UAB and 15-3 Southern Miss just Wednesday night. They are not ranked, but Coach Dickey knows these Tigers will be formidable.
“They’re good, they’re talented,” says Dickey. They have been ranked as high as the top 10. They’re certainly one of the top talent teams in our league, probably the most talented team. They’ve had a 2-point win at UAB, a 2-point win at home, (Fed Ex Forum), against Southern Miss which Larry’s (Eustachy) team has really been terrific.
“So, we’ll have to be ready to play at an extremely high level. Hopefully, we’ll have a great crowd that will help inspire our guys and we’ll play like we’re capable.”
GOOD TO SEE YA – BUT THIS IS BUSINESS
Speaking of home crowds, Tigers Head Coach and Houston-Kingwood native, Josh Pastner will be teeing up for the 4th time in Houston. So far, he is 1-2. Last season, Memphis lost to Rice and in 2009-10 split their Houston trip, beating Rice while losing to UH. He is 4-3 in total against Houston institutions, UH, Rice, and HBU.
While Dickey is 0-1 against Memphis, he is hoping the 1 in Pastner’s Houston-visit win column stays a 1 after Saturday night and is hoping that the crowd numbers are in the Cougars’ favor as well.
“Well, I’ll be disappointed if there’s not more Cougar fans here than there are Tiger fans,” says Dickey. “But, I’ve know Josh a long time. He’s really done a good job.” And Pastner has the players.
Two of his Tigers average double-figure scoring in 6’6” sophomore guard Will Barton with 18.4 ppg and 8.9.rebounds, and 6’1” sophomore point-guard Joe Jackson, with 10.5 ppg. Defensively, Memphis relies on 6’8” sophomore forward Tarik Black who leads the Tigers with 32 blocked shots. Dickey has seen them all.
“Barton’s really a good player, Black inside is terrific. They’re just good, they’re talented. They can go 13-deep. They’re really good. I’m more concerned what our level is going to be. We’ve certainly got to get to a high energy level. But then, we’ve got to boil down to execution, rebounding, and taking care of the basketball.”
LACE ‘EM UP
The Cougars are led in conference play by 6’8” freshman forward TaShawn Thomas with 11.7 ppg and has 41 blocks . 6’6” sophomore forward Alandise Harris averages 10.3 ppg with a team-leading 5.5 rebounds per game. 6’2” freshman guard Joseph Young rounds out the top-three double-digit scorers with 10 points per game.
Freshman 6’0” guard J.J. Thompson leads the way in conference play with 10 assists, but has tallied 10 turnovers. Junior 6’6” guard Jonathon Simmons leads the team with 14 turnovers, something Dickey would like to see his team improve upon sooner rather than later.
“They’ve got to understand that in conference play, every possession is so important and it’s a battle and you’ve got to concentrate, you’ve got to have awareness, and then you’ve got to execute on both ends of the floor.”
Memphis leads the all-time series 25-12. However, the Cougars have a chance to add one to the win column when tipoff gets underway Saturday night at 8 p.m.