The Houston Cougars unveiled a new brand of basketball in their first exhibition game of the season Tuesday night.
All the shots didn't fall for UH, as was obvious by its 40-percentage shooting, but its trapping press defense was an impressive new facet to a program desperately in need of a successful season.
The Houston Flight was able to squeak out a buzzer-beater against the youthful Cougars, but not without the UH press throwing the Flight into a nose dive with 23 forced turnovers that lead to a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
Cougar coach Alvin Brooks plans on consistently using the press against future opponents. "You can look for more of it," he said. "I actually think our press is better than we showed tonight. There were so many guys on our team with tonight being their first game of Division I basketball."
With the youth the UH roster displays, a one-point loss to a team with Rodney McCray and Major Jones is not an unforgivable sin.
The ageless Jones, who looked at times like he was walking in cement as he struggled down the court, was a formidable presence down low. Rodney McCray, who was recently cut by the Los Angeles Clippers, also proved he is still a capable opponent, nailing four consecutive three pointers in the fourth quarter.
"No team we play against will be nearly as smart as these guys," Brooks said. "They're impossible to rattle. Both Rodney and Major have played professionally for 14 years. If the press can work against an experienced team like that it will work against some others."
Brooks could be correct, but it is still to be determined how much the Flight's old legs contributed to UH's success with the pressure defense.
What is definite, however, is Houston's new-found athleticism, which has provided Brooks with the option for a consistent press.
Roy Spears, the Cougars starting point guard is one of Houston's quick players that helps the defense force turnovers. "Everyone on our team is athletic," he said. "We're going to press a lot more because our big men are also quick. They can help us get a lot of loose balls and pick off long passes."