Thursday, February 18, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 96

Around the Bases

About the Cougar

Cougars claw their way to new lease on life

On the Front Ro

Rohith Nandagiri

The Cougars had a lot of their fans foaming at the mouth after winning three conference games. They beat three teams and now have bettered last year's win total, proving that the influence of Clyde Drexler as the head coach has taken effect in a positive manner. The Cougars' Ratings Percentage Index at this time last year was around 200; this year, it is at 134.

The Cougars, after getting blasted by Louisville 106-78, are now 10-14 overall and 5-9 in conference.

UH still has an outside shot at receiving a bye in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. They would have to win their final two games against UNC Charlotte and Marquette and hope for other teams to lose.

Cougars trying to finish strong

The Cougars look like a better team of late even with all their injuries. Forward Early Smith will not play this season, because he tore ligaments in his knee in the first game against Texas. He is applying for a medical redshirt so he can still play two more seasons. The Cougars could have used him this season, because they really do not have a consistent post scorer.

Guard Gee Gervin was not his usual self in the past few games as he had a scratch over his right eyelid impairing his vision. This caused him to turn the ball over more than usual and not have as many points. Even so, he scored 22 Tuesday night against Louisville.

Jake Ballis was out of action for the last three games with a knee injury, but he practiced this week and will be back by the UNC Charlotte game Tuesday.

The most intriguing story of last week was Torrence Botts' literally walking all over a South Florida Bull. C-USA commissioner Mike Slive found it to be a problem and suspended Botts for one game.

The Bearcats fizzle

A few weeks ago, Cincinnati was red-hot, streaking toward the tournament with ease. They only had two losses and were looking like a real championship contender.

After three consecutive losses, Bob Huggins' team is probably going to be a No. 2 seed in its NCAA tournament region. Huggins cannot blame just one person.

"It has been a total team effort and all of our players have chimed in," Huggins said. "We just have everyone throwing the ball away. You can't score if you can't get shots off."

However, even with all these losses, look for the Bearcats to bounce back and enter the tournament strong as the C-USA tournament champion. They should win their remaining two games in the regular season and win all three in the conference tournament to have a five-game winning streak entering March Madness.

Conference roll call

C-USA is rated the sixth best conference in the country, according to the RPI. However, according to some coaches in the league, that does not do justice to the young, talented players available.

Kenyon Martin is the league's best defensive player and has grown into a role similar to that of William Stringfellow on the UH squad. He specializes in rebounding and defense and terrorizes opponents trying to slip past him. South Florida head coach Seth Greenberg is impressed with the Dallas native.

"He is as dominating a college player as I ever have seen. He always makes the big plays on the defensive end to win games," Greenberg said.

Even though he is a head case and a discipline problem, UAB's Fred Williams is in a class by himself.

"He is an interesting player in that he can score from anywhere on the court," Greenberg said.

Williams has not practiced in a week because of internal team problems and met with UAB head coach Murray Bartow to discuss the problems Monday afternoon. Rumors are circulating that Williams may never play in a Blazer uniform again, but that is a bit premature. Bartow knows that he needs Williams to get into the NCAA tournament, and Bartow would not cut off the udder of his cash cow.

Through everything, the best player in the conference is Quentin Richardson. Richardson is averaging 21.3 points and 12 rebounds a game over the last four games and has had five consecutive double doubles. He leads C-USA with 13 double doubles out of 24 games.

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