Michael P. Davis
Playing seven of the last nine games on the road has taken a toll on the Cougar basketball team (note: toll = nine straight losses). The schedule offers some brief relief 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Hofheinz Pavilion when the DePaul Blue Demons come to Houston for a Conference USA clash with the Cougars.
The Cougars (7-9 overall, 0-4 C-USA) have lost nine in a row after a 7-0 start and look to stop the bleeding against DePaul.
DePaul (5-12, 1-4) has struggled also, losing 10 of the last 12.
The Blue Demons have shown signs of life recently with two wins in their last three games - a win against Niagara (68-58) and an overtime victory over C-USA opponent South Florida (85-77).
DePaul coach Pat Kennedy said he was happy with the improvement his team has shown. "I've never seen a team improve so much within one season," he said. "Our kids are more stable in the system."
The 58-49 loss to nationally-ranked Marquette (No. 21) that followed was a dose of reality for the Demons.
The Demons are powered offensively by Jermaine Watts and Willie Coleman. Since C-USA games began, both are in the top 10 in conference in scoring, Coleman (No. 4) at 17.4 points per game and Watts (No. 6) at 16.5 points per game.
Demarcus Gaines is a rebounding specialist for the Demons, pulling down 10.4 rebounds per game. As a team, however, the Demons rank at the bottom of C-USA for their rebounding margin at -4.8, averaging only 34.4 boards while their opponents average almost 40. The Cougars will have to exploit this advantage to overcome their turnover problems. UH is the king of the turnover, with the worst turnover ratio (-6.8) in C-USA. The Cougars average 22.3 turnovers per game, while opponents are giving away turnovers only 15.5 times per game. UH is giving away the ball four times per game more than its opponents.
Despite the negative press received by both teams this season, the game should be relatively exciting. Neither team shoots remarkably well or ranks near the top in any offensive category, but a close game is in order between these evenly matched teams.