HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – Houston is still a game above .500 at 9-8. But, they are 0-3 on the road and 1-3 in C-USA. The Cougars have beaten Tulsa, but have lost at UTEP, at UCF, and at home to Memphis. In fact, the Cougars lost by 34 to the Tigers on Saturday, 89-55. Memphis is now 12-5 overall, 3-0 in conference and the number two team behind Marshall. Head Coach James Dickey is still looking for answers.
“It’s disappointing and embarrassing. We told the guys – just got to move past it- we got to be positive. I thought the energy was good today (at practice). I thought their attitude was very positive and now, we’ve got to get ready to go on the road and get a win. I was pleased with the way the guys approached and conducted practice today.”
Tuesday was a good practice for the Cougars as they prepared for SMU on Wednesday night. But, it’s Houston who is one of four winless conference road teams and Dickey knows his team has to play with the same confidence on the road as they do at Hofheinz Pavilion.
“We have not played well in the second half the last three games,” says Dickey. It started at UTEP; I thought we really competed hard here against Tulsa (won). The second half against UTEP, we didn’t defend very well. The second half against Central Florida didn’t rebound. And in the second half against Memphis, after the 14 minute mark, we just didn’t play.
“Memphis is very, very good. All three of those teams played well. But, we can only control what we need to do and hopefully our guys have learned from that and we’ve got to approach it from the perspective of having great energy, defending and rebounding and taking care of the ball on the road.”
THE NUMBERS VS MEMPHIS
The Cougars were outrebounded 41-31. Memphis scored 21 points off 14 Cougar turnovers. Conversely, the Cougars scored 8 points off 11 Memphis turnovers. The Cougars were 16-of-24 at the free throw line while Memphis was 15-of-19. Finally, Memphis shot 55.7% from the field on 34-of-51 shooting, while Houston shot 33.9% on 19-of-56 – at home. Memphis was 6-of-14 from the 3-point line, while the Cougars were 1-of-12.
Houston actually out-rebounded the Tigers 11-10 on the offensive glass, but was wiped clean on the defensive glass, 31-20. Freshman point guard Joseph Young knows where the Cougars need to start improving for SMU.
“Just on the defensive end, we just really got to help,” says Young. Say for instance, the big guys – we got to help-side of the defense, rebound. Really, we just got to play defense. Lock up – we play defense, and defense wins game and it will help us on the offense.”
Sophomore 6’6” forward Alandise Harris, who leads the Cougars in C-USA scoring at 12.3 per game and who led the Cougars in scoring against Memphis with 18 points, lends this observation.
“We just didn’t perform well,” says Harris. “We didn’t execute. We basically didn’t do what we were supposed to do. We were just going out there and doing our own thing.”
The Head Coach wasn’t too pleased and knows his team will have to develop quick memory loss regarding Memphis. But, it’s hard to just wipe away the harsh reality.
“We went back and looked the film,” says Dickey. “And certainly, if you’ve got a competitive spirit, you’ve got to be a little upset that you got beat like we did at home. That’s very, very disappointing and that can’t sit too well.”
NUMBERS IN CONFERENCE PLAY
The Cougars are led in conference by 6’6” sophomore forward Alandise Harris who averages 12.3 ppg and a team-leading 4.5 rebounds per game. Junior 6’6” guard Jonathon Simmons follows Harris with an average of 11 per game, 4.3 boards, and 19 turnovers. Freshman 6’8” forward TaShawn Thomas pulls up the rear with 10.3 ppg and 4.3 rebounds.
Freshman 6’0” guard J.J. Thompson leads Cougars in conference play with 11 assists, but has 12 turnovers.
SMU IS NEXT
The Mustangs are coming off back-to-back defeats at UTEP, 70-64, and a 68-52 loss to the Rice Owls in their conference home opener. Wednesday night’s game will represent the second conference home game for Head Coach Matt Doherty and the Mustangs before they get back on the road for two against Memphis and Tulane. So, there’s no doubting the need for a win by the Mustangs.
“SMU had a chance to win against UTEP,” says Dickey. They hit a shot in regulation that didn’t count, Nyakundi did. So it all starts with Nyakundi. He’s a terrific player. They’re going to run that half-court offense where they backdoor a lot. We’re going to have to have great defensive awareness.
“We’re going to have to know where Nyakundi is at. Offensively, we’ve got to have great ball movement, player movement, and we just got to go up there and play with great confidence and knock down shots because I think we’re going to get some open shots.”
Senior 6’8” forward Robert Nyakundi and 6’3” junior guard London Giles lead the Mustangs in scoring with 15.1 and 11.1 points per game respectively. Nyakundi is also their leading rebounder and averages 5.5 per game.
The Mustangs average 62.7 ppg and are ranked 11th in the conference while the Cougars average 75.3 ppg and are second-best behind Memphis. Houston is the eighth-best offensive rebounding team in C-USA averaging 36.5 per game while SMU averages 29.9 boards per contest and ranks 11th.
SMU is very good in transition and can rack up steals. They boast a +2.35 turnover margin which ranks 2nd in the conference. They only average 12.4 turnovers per game while the Cougars average 15.1 per game.
Tipoff gets underway Wednesday night at 7:00 in Moody Coliseum.