Volume 8, Issue 1 University of Houston
Men's basketball team leaves Top 25 after upset
By Chris Elliott
The men's basketball team was allowed five days to experience life as a Top 25 team, before falling victim to its first upset of the season.
“It' good for publicity and recruiting,” Penders said. “But we all know that at the end of the season it doesn't matter how high you're ranked if you get knocked out of the (NCAA) tournament in the first round.”
After cruising to victory against a young Sam Houston State team, the Cougars ran into some second half woes against the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday.
Forward Jamar Thorpe has emerged as one of the team's go-to guys in the post, as well as a stalwart on defense.
Stephen Pinchback/Breaking News
The Jaguars came into the game having won their last five, but the team's offense ran headlong into UH's defensive pressure cooker. The result was a season-high 19 turnovers for South Alabama and a 27-30 deficit at the half. However, this was expected for Penders and his team, who force an average of 22.3 turnovers a game.
The deciding factor of the game was Houston's inability to connect from the foul line. The Cougars shot 54.5 percent from the free throw line, while their opponents shot just less than 70 percent.
Led by guard Chey Christie, South Alabama went on a run late in the second half to win the game 66-62. Christie and forward Richard Law both scored a team-high 12 points each.
UH junior guard Oliver LaFayette has see his point production fall during the last two games, but Jamar “Dunk Master Flex” Thorpe has stepped up his play. In the last two games Thorpe and his 6-7 inch, 230-pound frame have been the Cougars' first option in the paint. Though he came into the season resembling a slasher, he has also acquired a touch on his shot. Thorpe has proved to be a true mid-range threat recently, and has been a consistent offensive presence on the court.
“Jamar can post up, take people outside and can get a lot of stuff off of put-backs. He's a go to guy,” Penders said. “He's going to become more of our go to guy as the season rolls along.”
Junior guard Lanny Smith has not produced outstanding numbers in the point column, but he has emerged as one of the Conference USA's top passers, averaging nearly 10 assists per game in an offense that capitalizes off of fast break opportunities.
With this in mind, Penders and his team continue to train for a matchup with the Running Rebels of Nevada-Las Vegas. The Rebels, who became known for their up-tempo, fast break style offense during the early 1990s, are fresh off of a win against Bobby Knight and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. They will face a UH team whose style of play is not unlike that of former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian.
Penders rescheduled the team's Friday game at Hofheinz Pavilion against North Texas to take place in Denton, giving Cougar fans traveling to the Fort Worth Bowl a chance to see the men's basketball team on the road. The game begins at 1 p.m.
Houston will attempt to use UNLV and its game against
UNT to convince The AP voters they still belong in the Top 25.