NCAA out, but NIT may be in

by Chris Pea

Daily Cougar Staff

DALLAS -- The disappointment on Houston coach Alvin Brooks' face said it all: It was over.

In order for the Cougars to have any chance for an NCAA Tournament bid, they had to come into Dallas' Reunion Arena and prove that they belonged. But as quickly as the Cougars' NCAA stock had been rising lately, it all came crashing down Thursday as they lost to a Southern Methodist team that tied for the worst conference record this year.

The second-seeded Cougars' loss to SMU (8-19), the seventh seed, not only dashed any hopes UH had of winning the final Dr Pepper Southwest Conference Classic, but it might also mean elimination from any further postseason competition.

Houston, now 17-10 on the year, is almost certainly out of the NCAA picture, and now even the National Invitational Tournament may not be a possibility.

"We can only hope and pray that we get to play one more time," Brooks said. "Obviously, the NCAA is out of the question."

In the first half of the game, Houston was flammable from the three-point range. The Cougars were 5-of-10 from behind the arc, led by Lonzell Gowdy and Willie Byrd, who each poured in two treys in the half.

But Houston's shooting in the final stanza was almost as frigid as the cold, windy Dallas air that has swept through the city in the last two days.

The Cougars managed to convert on only 3 of 13 three-pointers in the second half, including one by Gowdy, with 10 seconds remaining, that would have tied the game.

Brooks is optimistic that, come this Sunday, he'll be the recipient of a positive phone call from either postseason tournament's selection committee.

"I only hope we get a chance to show our skills one more time this year," he said.

If this was indeed Houston's last game of the 1995-96 season, forward Tim Moore ended his UH career in an uncharacteristic fashion.

The Cougars' leading scorer managed only eight points in the game -- all in the first half -- and he was virtually invisible in the second half.

"I got a little frustrated and force things," Moore said.

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