HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – They’ve had six days off from competition since their last game at Hofheinz Pavillion, an 82-76 win over C-USA foe East Carolina. If you factor in the date of the next game, it will be exactly one week.
However, the win gave Houston a 10-9 overall record against a 2-4 conference record. They will have an opportunity to add one to the win column on Saturday night at home against Tim Floyd and the UTEP Miners.
But, until that time, the Cougars continue to prepare while enjoying the much needed break before starting the second half of the regular season says Cougars Head Coach, James Dickey.
“The open week is good in that you can work on some things. Got a week of preparation and we let our guys have the mandatory day off. And then we went light on Monday, and then we had some good work since then, and we’re excited about getting back on the court on Saturday.”
Talk about streaks, the Cougars had lost 4 straight contests before beating East Carolina on last Saturday. Prior to losing 4 straight, they had won 5 consecutive home games. The win over the Pirates could be the start of another win streak. But, one thing is for sure about the win at the break; it was a positive boost for a team that desperately needed it and it came at the right time says the Head Coach.
“The most important thing is we won. You have a good feeling. Our guys got a well-deserved break after the game. On Sunday, we only had study hall. And so that was their only day off.”
“(We needed) to get back on the court and be able to practice and learn from the good things that we did against East Carolina, and then also make sure we improve in the area of press-breaker, taking care of the ball and not turning it over.”
Houston is near the bottom of C-USA in turnover margin. They average 15.4 per game which is only better than UAB at 15.7. However, the Cougars are number 2 in scoring offense at 74.5 points per game, but dead last in scoring defense at 72.3 points per game.
The Cougars also shoot the three-ball very well to the tune of 38% which is second best in the conference. In addition, Dickey’s group is the second best free throw shooting team at 71.4%.
The last time the Cougars and Miners met was January 7th in El Paso. The Miners won by 20, 70-50. Freshman guard Joseph Young scored 14 points and was the only Cougar to ring up double digits. Four rebounds was a team high for senior guard Darian Thibodeaux. But worse, the Cougars shot 40% from the field for the game.
UTEP shot 61.2% from the field, 57.1% from the 3-point line, but 42.9% from the free throw line. Also, three Miners scored in double figures. Senior 6’7” forward Gabriel McCulley led the way with 21 while 6’7” freshman forward Julian Washburn followed with 19.
Sophomore 6’10” center John Bohannon added 14. Bohannon also grabbed 11 rebounds for the Miners.
UTEP scored 34 points in the paint to the Cougars 20, and scored 19 points off turnovers to the Cougars 12. The Cougars were simply outplayed by the Miners in El Paso. Now, it’s the Cougars who are in familiar territory with a chance for redemption.
“We’re certainly disappointed in how we performed out there in the last 14 minutes of the game,” says Dickey. The Cougars were outscored 27-13 and amassed 5 turnovers in the last 14 minutes of the game.
“We didn’t defend near as well as we could defend,” Dickey says. “We didn’t execute with any offensive efficiency. We didn’t share the ball. So, hopefully our guys have grown from that, and glad to be back at Hofheinz (Pavillion) to play another Conference USA game.”
Junior 6’6” guard Jonathon Simmons leads the Cougars in scoring with a 14.4 per game average. Sophomore forward Alandise Harris follows with an average of 12.1 ppg. Freshman 6’8” forward/center TaShawn Thomas is next with an average of 10.4 ppg while leading the Cougars in rebounding with a 7.6 per game average.
Freshman guard Joseph Young is the last of the double-digit scorers averaging 10.3 ppg.
Dickey admits that the team has worked to clean up some of the flaws that caused problems in the first meeting against UTEP. He also says that his team knows what it will take to win at the friendly confines of Hofheinz Pavillion.
“We practiced against the press a lot,” Dickey says. “And we looked at the turnovers and our guys understand that there’s accountability (and) consequences for when you turn the ball over. So, hopefully those things will show up for us in that we have made progress this week on Saturday night.”
Tipoff gets underway at 7:00.