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Volume 6, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

Cougars begin C-USA play with optimism, uncertainty 

Win over LSU provides confidence, loss to ULL brings questions

By Jay Gandy
Breaking News

When UH begins Conference USA play at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Marquette, it marks the beginning of a difficult road ahead.

But the Cougars got a shot in the arm Dec. 30, beating an undefeated team on what amounted to its home court. Most of the fans at Hofheinz Pavilion were wearing purple and gold, but the Cougar fans had the last laugh.

UH handed Louisiana State its first loss of the season, defeating the Tigers 60-52 and preventing LSU head coach John Brady from earning his 200th career win.

Freshman point guard Lanny Smith is finding his niche in the Cougar offense. Smith scored 19 points in a 60-52 win over Louisiana State on Dec. 30.

Pin Lim/Breaking News

UH started the game hot, hitting its first nine shots from the floor en route to an early 21-3 lead. Cougar head coach Ray McCallum said the defense was the key.

"When you look at our start, that set the tone. That's defense. We were able to rotate and take charges, we got loose balls and we had great communication. It was just a tremendous, tremendous effort," McCallum said.

The backcourt duo of freshman Lanny Smith and junior Andre Owens combined for 37 points to lead the Cougars. Smith scored a career-high 19 points, shooting 8-of-15 from the field.

"Coach (McCallum) pulled me aside yesterday and had a talk with me," Smith said. "He told me that he felt like nobody from the country could really stop me from going to the basket, and he really gave me a sense of confidence coming into this game."

Senior center Anwar Ferguson anchored the defense inside with four blocked shots and eight rebounds. Andy Ikeakor, another senior center, came off the bench and added four points and six rebounds in 13 minutes of play. 

The win over LSU (9-1) was UH's fifth consecutive victory and sixth win at home. But the Cougars struggled on the road Saturday, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette 81-67. Owens scored 21 points and senior guard Marcus Oliver had 20, but the Cougars never came within five points of the Rajin' Cajuns in the second half. 

The loss to ULL dropped the Cougars overall record to 6-4 overall and 0-3 on the road. But UH's season will kick into a higher gear against Marquette. With wins over Washington, Texas A&M and LSU under their belts, the Cougars can go into C-USA play with confidence.

"For us to have beaten a Pac-10 school, to beat a Big 12 school, to beat a Southeast Conference school, we're just proud of this effort and it's something to build on," McCallum said.

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