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Volume 7, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Pumped-up Cougars overpower Tigers

UH seals third consecutive home win in front of 5,300 fans

By Sam Khan Jr.
Breaking News

In one of their most physical and intense battles this season, the Houston Cougars finished up their short three-game home stand in style, defeating the Louisiana State Tigers 81-72 on Tuesday at Hofheinz Pavilion. 

The Cougars kicked off their stint at Hofheinz on Thursday with a 78-65 win against New Orleans and added a 68-61 victory Saturday over Southeastern Louisiana. 
LSU (5-2) posed a much tougher challenge to the Cougars, but they met it with defensive intensity, and making a statement with the win. 

"This was a message game for us tonight," coach Tom Penders said. "There were a lot of curious people, and our goal is to get them back." 

Those curious people were the 5,302 in the stands -- nearly 2,000 more than Houston’s average attendance this season. The extra spectators helped provide a loud, boisterous atmosphere, much to the pleasure of the Cougars. 

"I love the atmosphere in the building," Penders said. "The intensity level is like that of a February or March game." 

Sophomore guard Lanny Smith went a long way in pumping up the crowd, leading Houston with 22 points and acknowledging the fans when he exited the game in the final minute. 

"I was so amped up the whole game and so energized," Smith said. "I don’t think I took a breath (throughout the game) and it was an opportunity for me to show some relief and let the crowd know that they played a big part in this game." 

Houston had a Tiger team on their hands that plays a similar style to themselves, an up-tempo full-court running game in which they try to garner many points in transition, and they learned it quickly as forward Brandon Bass and guard Tack Minor pushed the ball up the floor and got the Tigers out to an early 14-7 advantage. 

Smith responded quickly, as he scored 14 of the Cougars first 21 points and helped push Houston out to a narrow 37-35 halftime advantage despite Houston’s poor 31 percent shooting from the field in the first half. 

Though the lead changed hands six times in the first half, the Cougars didn’t relinquish the one they took into the locker room as they came out on a 21-7 run to take 58-42 lead with just over 12 minutes to go. That’s when Smith, junior guard Brian Latham and the rest of the Cougars put the clamps on the Tigers, never letting them get closer than seven on their way to the victory. 

The Cougars defense held LSU to 10 points under their season average of 82 points per contest, and held them below 40 points in both halves, something that had only been done three times to the Tigers before Tuesday’s game. 

The Tigers were led by Bass, who finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots, and guard Antonio Hudson, who added 20 points. 
Though the Cougars didn’t force the customary 20-plus turnovers (they forced 16), their defense was stout nonetheless, as they turned missed shots and loose balls into transition opportunities. 

"I can’t remember them getting to a loose ball," Penders said. "We were all over them. We didn’t let them breathe." 

Offensively, the backcourt did much of the damage as senior guard Andre Owens finished with 17 points and Latham added 14 to Smith’s game-high total. Houston shot 51 percent in the second half and 40 percent for the game. 

The Cougars improved their season record to 8-3 and 5-0 at home. The win was their fourth consecutive overall. 

Houston’s recent success also brought out some prominent alumni, as former Cougar great Elvin Hayes paid the team a visit prior to the game. 

"He came into our locker room and we all stopped and said ‘Whoa,’ because we’re not used to having people like him come by," Owens said. "He just told us to 
have a good game tonight, and it gave us the extra energy to play well out of respect for the player he was when he was here." 

Penders said Hayes’ presence at the game made had him pumped as well, and the presence of other great Cougar alumni paired with team success is important in restoring prominence back to the program. 

"With Big ‘E’ (Hayes) here it was a special night," Penders said. "I was jacked up. 
"That’s what this is all about, bringing back the glory days. When and if we can win consistently, people will start talking about (former UH coach) Guy Lewis and all the great things he did here, and not just here in Houston, but nationally. And that is 
something that has driven me and the guys as well. They’re probably tired of seeing the Phi Slama Jama tapes but we’re going to keep playing them." 

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