Volume 9, Issue 2 University of Houston
UH can’t find shooting touch in desert,
fall to No. 11 Arizona
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The three-point line toyed with them. The seductive curve presented itself in a manner that the Cougars could not refuse. They haven’t been able to refuse all season, but this time, the three-point line left Houston suffering heartbreak after its 87-62 loss to Arizona on Sunday night.
The Associated Press No. 11 Arizona Wildcats sat back in a 2-3 zone defense, daring Houston and its perimeter-oriented lineup to win the game from behind the arc. As expected, Houston confidently welcomed the challenge. The 12 for 41 shooting display from downtown, however, was neither pleasing for Houston’s coaches nor its players, and considering three-point attempts made up more than 53 percent of its shots, Houston’s chances of exiting Arizona with a road win over a ranked opponent dwindled with each missed opportunity.
“You can’t shoot 30 percent and expect to win against anybody, especially a top 10 team in the country,” senior point guard Lanny Smith said. “Even last year, our defense kept us in the games when we did shoot poorly, and our defense is not where we needs it to be. So you shoot poorly, and you’re not playing defense. That’s a bad combination, and that’s why the score ended up being what it was.”
Despite forcing Arizona into 20 turnovers, Houston was often caught out of position. Defensive help was routinely late, leaving the Cougars’ small line in multiple mismatch situations.
Arizona entered the half of what had been a competitive, back-and-fourth game with a 41-33 lead. Smith, who ended the night with 12 points and six assists in 36 minutes, attempted to lead the Cougars on an attack of the gaps in Arizona’s zone defense. He, junior guard Robert Lee and senior guard Oliver Lafayette found that they had ability to penetrate and get off shots after decent looks at the basket, but they would not fall.
“Our medium-range shooting is killing us,” head coach Tom Penders said. “Medium range, layups and the little chip shots -- we’re not hitting those either. We missed how many layups in the second half? At least six, point blank, right inside. That helps if you can hit those. It helps your shooting percentage. It helps everything.”
Lafayette and junior guard Robert McKiver went nine for 29 from the field, including a four for 19 performance from three-point land. This is something Penders said needs to improve if his team expects to win big games this year.
“Oliver Lafayette and Robert McKiver in particular have got to step up and knock down open shots,” Penders said. “It’s that simple. You’re playing a Final Four team on the road, a team that we beat last year, and they sat in a zone saying ‘I hope you miss,’ and we missed.”
Houston’s attempt to win the game by way of three-point play resulted in an unequal distribution of rebounds that heavily favored Arizona. Wildcat forwards Ivan Radenovic and Marcus Williams both put up double-digit rebounding numbers. Freshman forward Chase Budinger contributed 15 points, four rebounds and two blocks to his team’s 25-point blowout over the Cougars.
All three forwards were able to take advantage of Houston’s late rotations and sluggish transition defense to help Arizona win the battle in the paint, 38 points to 18.
Penders said he saw a couple of promising things in the bleak shadows of the loss, such as the controlled play of senior forward and Texas transfer Dion Dowell and the manner in which Smith handled the ball and picked his shots.
“I was very pleased that (Dowell) was able to play the entire game,” Penders said. “I was impressed with a lot of things he did out there for a guy that hadn’t played in a year. If there are any nerves or pressure on kids, you see it early in the ball game. I didn’t see any. He was confident in every thing he was doing, whether it was handling the ball passing the ball or shooting the ball. It was good to get him out there and get him on the floor. One of the highlights for me in the game was Dion.”
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