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Volume 2, Issue 3                                    University of Houston

Close, but no cigar

UH unable to claim victory over UConn, UT

By Josh Gajewski
Staff Writer

The UH basketball team knew it had its hands full heading into last week.

First came defending national champion -- current No. 2 team in the nation -- Connecticut.

Then on Sunday, UH traveled to Austin for an intra-state battle with No. 18 Texas -- the defending Big 12 champ that rides the shoulders of arguably the best big man in the country, 7-foot all-America candidate Chris Mihm.

Uconn is not chopped liver. But UH dazzled the home folks who jammed Hofheinz Pavilion on Dec. 30 when the Huskies came into town.

UConn's Khalid El-Amin had the hot hand in the first half, scoring 21 of his 27 points as the Huskies jumped out to a commanding 48-27 lead at the break, aided by a 13-0 run just before time expired.

"The last five minutes of the first half we had a mental lapse," head coach Clyde Drexler said.

The second half was all UH. The Huskies actually managed to widen the margin in the opening minutes as the lead stretched to 28 with 7:03 remaining.

That's when things got interesting.

Gee Gervin dropped in 10 points in a 25-4 UH run that brought the Cougars to 80-73 with 1:25 left in the game.


Gee Gervin (13) caught fire in the second half against UConn, dropping in 10 of his 19 points in a 25-4 Cougar run that brought UH back into the game. The Huskies' Khalid El-Amin (42) scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting.

Kevin Harwerth/Breaking News

UH managed to close the gap to 81-76 in the final seconds, but two key turnovers and a missed three-pointer by Tega Moceanu that could have made it a two-point affair in the final minute proved too much for the Cougars to overcome as the Huskies escaped with an 82-76 win.

"Our guys just never quit," Drexler said. "Our guys were not backing down and that's a building block for us."

"We saw light at the end of the tunnel but we couldn't quite grasp it," Kenny Younger, who scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, said. "It was a good experience."

On Sunday the Cougars traveled to the Erwin Center in Austin to face the Longhorns.

Sophomore Bernard Smith, who transferred to Houston after his freshman year with UT, returned to the starting lineup after spraining his right wrist earlier in the year but was forced to sit once again after re-aggravating it.

"He fell on it and I elected not to play him in the second half," Drexler said. "His presence was sorely missed."

Both teams came out of the gate strong, matching each other basket-for-basket early on.

But UH would cool off, allowing the Longhorns to jump out to a 21-12 lead a little more than five minutes into the contest.

UH climbed back into the game behind 12 first-half points from both Younger and George Williams as UH trailed 40-37 at the half, despite shooting only 33 percent from the field.

Six straight points to open up the second half gave the Cougars a 43-40 lead and the two squads battled to a 57-57 tie with 12:23 left.

UT head coach Rick Barnes brought in a bigger lineup as the Longhorns went on a 14-4 run, and UT led 71-61 at the 7:19 mark.

The run included seven straight points from Mihm, who finished with 20 points, 13 boards and seven blocks.

Younger was forced to leave the game after picking up his fourth foul with 15:28 remaining in the game and the game tied at 52.

"That was the difference in the game," Drexler said. "It cost us about 10 to 15 points at a stretch that was crucial to us. We've got to have better production off of the bench."

A three-point play by Williams with 18 seconds remaining cut the lead to six, but that's as close as things would get. UT prevailed 90-80.

"We're on the verge of becoming a very good team," Drexler said. "We're going to keep on fighting."
 

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