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Volume 4, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

Cougars head into conference play after some record-breaking performances

By Jake McKim
Breaking News Staff

Despite losses to big-name opponents Louisiana State and North Carolina State in the past two weeks, the Cougar men's basketball team appears to be making strides toward becoming an elite team. Led by senior guard Dominic Smith's sensational scoring ability, sophomore point guard Kevin Gaines' cool court vision and resurgent junior forward George Williams, the Cougars have become a team to watch in Conference USA.

On Dec. 20, the Cougars strutted into Baton Rouge, La., looking confident and ready to take on a battle-tested LSU team. The Tigers were in control for much of the game and held as much as an 11-point lead with 15:22 remaining in the game. But the Cougars stormed back to cut the lead to 71-69, and when Gaines fumbled Smith's pass out of bounds, they were forced to foul Torris Bright. Bright hit both free throws and LSU went on to win 73-69, dropping the Cougars to 5-4 on the season.

Three days later the Cougars faced N.C. State, the team that stunned UH in the 1983 NCAA National Championship game on a last-second lay-up. Eighteen years later, it seemed fate was playing a cruel joke on UH fans again. 

Junior forward Jeremee McGuire soars toward the basket for a throw-down jam. The slam energized the crowd during the Cougars' 91-60 victory over Tennessee State on Dec. 30.

Kevin Harwerth/Breaking News

The Cougars held the lead for most of the contest, but N.C. State had one more chance to win the game. With the Cougars up 66-64 with 6.5 seconds remaining, Wolfpack guard Julius Hodge brought the ball up court and attempted to pass to teammate Clifford Crawford. Williams blocked the attempt but Wolfpack forward Marcus Melvin picked up the loose ball and, from just short of midcourt, heaved the ball toward the basket. The prayer went in and, after referees confirmed the shot was good, N.C. State walked off the floor victorious.

Now at .500, the Cougars faced a much lighter opponent Dec. 30 and took care of business. A small and relatively slow Tennessee State team came into Hofheinz Pavilion with visions of continuing the Cougars' losing streak, but Smith scored 18 and dished out seven assists to ensure the Cougar victory, 91-60. 

It was a performance sure to boost the Cougars' confidence going into conference play. The Cougars shot a school record 70 percent from the field. Williams scored 14 points and Gaines added 13 and seven assists. The biggest applause of the day went to backup forward/center Jeremee McGuire who finished with 12 points and two crowd-pleasing dunks.

With their record now at a respectable 6-5, the Cougars head to Saint Louis on Saturday to face the Billikens in both teams' first conference games of the season. The Billikens are 6-7 overall and are coming off a 53-50 loss to Southwest Missouri State on Wednesday. Tipoff is at 7:10 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on KTRH-AM 740.

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