Despite effort, Cougar spark dies in final game

Rohith Nandagiri

Staff Writer

CINCINNATI - The Houston Cougars took a different approach to Wednesday's game against Southern Mississippi, but the result was very much the same.

The Cougars lost their 11th straight game and were knocked out of the Phillips 66 Conference USA men's basketball tournament by a score of 73-57 by the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. The Cougars finished the season 9-20, going 2-14 in conference. The Golden Eagles are now 21-9 and 10-7 in conference. They will take on Memphis today in the quarterfinal game.

It was also the last game for head coach Alvin Brooks, who was fired this past Sunday. Brooks said he tried to get the team to think about the game rather than his predicament.

"I tried to tell the guys to concentrate on the game, but their emotions were spent. 72 hours after they heard about (the firing), they had to play. But I was very proud of the way they responded and how they played," Brooks said many turnovers in the first half.

After a horrible first half with turnovers (14), the Cougars found themselves trailing 38-19. But the Cougars came back in the second half and played inspired ball. UH actually outscored the Eagles in the second half 38-35 and only committed five second-half turnovers.

"The team was trying too hard to win the game for me. I told them to stop doing that, but that first half was tough," Brooks said. "I thought we played very well in the second half." The two seniors on the team played their final game in Cougars' uniform. Galen Robinson (12) and Shamahn McBride (7) combined to score 19 points and pull down 19 rebounds. But for the game McBride only shot two of 14 and one of six from beyond the arc. He did incite two steals, which led to fast break points.

"In the first half, I was just too emotional ... I needed to relax," said McBride. He is originally from Cincinnati, and his friends and family were attending the game.

Southern Miss was led by second-team-all-conference selection Kelly McCarty, who had 17 points and six rebounds. But the Eagles had balanced scoring with Jimmie Floyd contributing 16 points and Rod Agee and Vandarel Jones each with 11. Robinson, who was very emotional after the game, was obviously hurt by the loss.

"It seems like four years went by like four minutes. (Brooks) helped me out a lot, and I will take away a lot of memories," said Robinson.

McBride echoed his teammate's sentiments: "We just wanted to come out and do our best. We were all hurt that he is gone, and even though I won't be here next year the young guys will miss him."

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