Five weeks ago at Memphis, the University of Houston Men’s Basketball team lost trailed by 15 at halftime in a game they lost by 23. On Thursday night at Hofheinz Pavilion they beat the 21st ranked Tigers, and there’s a big reason why.
“I felt like this week we had a tougher mentality,” sophomore guard Jherrod Stiggers said. “It wasn’t about shooting the basketball, or who could get the most assists or rebounds. It was just playing defense and playing tough.”
Toughness was the theme for Houston in getting ready for the game.
“We had a rugged, long practice on Monday,” Houston head coach James Dickey said. “The guys really responded in a positive way. We put the bubble on the rim. No shots were going in. We were going to rebound every possession and defend.”
Houston led by three at the end of a first half that saw the lead change hands five times, the final time coming with 40 seconds left when Danuel House was fouled by Shaq Goodwin after a made three pointer. He knocked down the free throw for his 11th point of the half off the bench. Goodwin and Austin Nichols led Memphis with ten apiece. Goodwin finished the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Nichols was kept to a single bucket in the second half.
“(The four-point play) was an energy booster for us,” Houston junior forward TaShawn Thomas said.”I felt like they were getting ready to go on a run, and they were starting to pull away a little bit. When (Danuel) House hit that shot it gave us an energy boost and momentum to get back into the game.”
In the second half, Houston was able to stretch the lead to seven, but Memphis went on a 15-4 run to take a 50-46 lead with 12:47 to go. Houston responded immediately with a 9-0 run. After a Memphis basket, no team led by more than three until House knocked down a trey with 2:16 left, giving Houston a 68-63 lead. House finished the game with 19 points, while taking just eight shots.
“That’s efficiency,” Dickey said of House’s night. “When you look at it, it’s because he gets to the free throw line. He’s taking good shots, and he drives it hard.”
On his 21st birthday, Thomas finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds becoming just the seventh player in program history to eclipse the 1300 point, 800 rebound mark for his career. Among the first six in that club are hall of famers Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
“Growing up I never thought I would even be mentioned with those guys, so being able to play at the same school, and being able to put my name alongside those is just an honor,” Thomas said. “Plus it’s my birthday, so I can definitely say that it’s one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.”
The win evens Houston’s record at 14-14 overall and 6-9 in American Athletic Conference play. After starting coference play 3-1, the Cougars lost eight of ten, but they’ve now won two in a row, and with three games to play a .500 conference record is still attainable, and they know it.
“We’ve been talking about that since we went on our drought. The coaches just said that we’ve got to win out and keep hope alive.”
Houston closes the regular season with games at Temple and Central Florida with a home game against South Florida in between. Those are the bottom three teams in the AAC with combined conference records of 8-37. The Cougars have already beaten all three.Follow @AdamSpolane
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