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.
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.
"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.
"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
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.
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