Monday, November 29, 1999
Houston, Texas
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About the Cougar

Coogs lose home opener 94-80

UH men's basketball team comes out flat, falls to old rival SMU

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Daily Cougar Staff 

After a huge, last-second win against George Washington on Nov. 21, the UH men's basketball team came back flatter than a board for its home opener against Southern Methodist on Saturday.

The Mustangs (3-0) rallied to overtake the Cougars (2-2) at Hofheinz Pavilion 94-80 in front of 3,056 fans.

SMU's DeWayne Floyd (43) an dRenaldo Bratton (3) kept the Cougars' Kenny Younger (middle) in check as the senior forward was held to seven points in limited playing time. Houston lost the game 94-80.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

Jeryl Sasser led the way for SMU with 24 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and four steals. The Mustangs had four other players in double figures and the SMU defense held Houston to 38 percent shooting for the game.

"It was a really good win for our team," SMU head coach Mike Dement said. "To come in here, after they went 2-1 on their Alaska trip and after their big win against George Washington, it was just a good win for us."

The Mustangs' Willie Davis scored 20 points and pulled down 12 boards while freshman reserve Quinton Ross put up 17 points in the winning effort. Point guard Stephen Woods had 15 points, five rebounds and two assists for the game.

"We have great players on our team -- 'Sass' (Sasser), 'Q' (Ross) and (junior forward) Willie Davis -- but there's only one ball," Woods said. "My thing is, if only they're scoring and taking care of their business, all I have to do is step right in and hit the open jump shots."

Houston's Kenny Younger was plagued with foul trouble for much of the game, resulting in the senior forward having to spend a lot of time on the bench. To worsen the Cougars' situation, SMU was able to hold senior guard Gee Gervin to 5-of-15 shooting for 15 points. Gervin also committed four turnovers in the contest.

"We were lucky that Younger got into some foul trouble," Dement said. "I was very worried about him. He's an explosive player, but he wasn't that much of a factor because he was sitting a lot. Then he fouled out on a tough call."

Younger was called for an offensive foul with 3:42 left in the game. The call, which could have gone either way, was made on a Cougar fast break that would have brought Houston to within eight points of SMU.

Younger's struggles were reflective of the entire Cougar team. A lack of effort was obvious from the home team for most of the game.

"We had some guys who are still in Alaska and some guys who had too much turkey (for Thanksgiving)," UH head coach Clyde Drexler said after the game. "That's the way we looked. For the most part, it was just a tough game. They (SMU) came out and competed and played really well.

"The biggest problem we had was just (not) competing. Everybody that played on our team did not compete. This was just not a good game for us. They shot the ball much better than we did. All those little intangibles -- loose balls and the hustle plays -- they made them all and we made none," he said.

The one bright spot for the Cougars was the play of freshman standout George Williams. The forward from Sugarland scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

George Williams (42) was the only bright spot for the UH men's basketball team on Saturday. The freshman from Elkins High School scored 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Cougars' 94-80 loss.

"I love George," Dement said. "Everybody in the state tried to recruit George. We tried to recruit him. He's a great student and obviously a great player. I mean, look at what he's doing already. He was tremendous.

"As great as Gee is, to me, I think the key (for Houston to win) is with George and Kenny (Younger). If you keep them off the boards and keep them from running, you should be able to control (the Cougars)," he said.

Despite his efforts in the game, Williams could not hide his frustration in defeat.

"I've had a problem with the team effort from our team," Williams said. "Nothing the other team does really affects our team. In our loss against (California on Nov. 20), it wasn't so much the things that Cal did. It was the things that we didn't do. It was the same thing in this game."

SMU won the rebounding battle 56-52 while committing 14 turnovers, four less than Houston's 18. UH allowed many fast break baskets as the Mustangs shot 43 percent in the second half, outscoring the Cougars 51-45.

"Our transition defense was terrible," Williams said. "There's no way around it. It was just awful. That's a team effort, just like every other aspect of the game. SMU had a good transition offense and we had a poor transition defense."

The Cougars competed well in the first half, but a late 16-8 run in the final 6:26 of the half gave SMU a 43-35 lead at halftime.

The Mustangs came out of the gates quickly at the start of the second with a 17-10 run. Davis and sophomore Damon Hancock led the way for SMU as the Cougars committed four turnovers during the Mustangs' run.

"In the first half, we tried zone defense, and that didn't work," Drexler said. "So we tried trapping and pressing in the second half. It worked a little bit, but we couldn't complete the play. We'd make a great steal, come down and make a spectacular turnover.

"It was just one of those nights. Nothing was going -- we couldn't handle the ball, too many turnovers, too many missed shots, no defense -- it's tough to win when none of those are working," he said.

The game was very physical as a total of 55 personal fouls were whistled with three players fouling out (Younger, Houston's Tega Moceanu and SMU's DeWayne Floyd).

"I knew it would be a much more physical game than the first two games that we've played," Dement said. "We had to adjust to that a little bit and I think we did.

"It was a tough game to call, there was a lot of athleticism out there. There were a lot of bodies hitting out there. We obviously adjusted pretty well because we got to the free throw line and we out-rebounded them," he said.

Drexler had a bit of a different take on the physical aspect of Saturday's game.

"It wasn't too physical," he said. "They pushed and we got out of the way. To be physical, you've got to push back. That's pretty much what happened, with a few exceptions. They had three or four guys going to the boards every single time and they just got easy put-backs.

"Every time we played great defense, it was nullified by a great put-back. Our big guys would go for a block and nobody would come and seal their guys off," he said.

The Cougars will be off until Friday when they travel to Iowa City, Iowa for the Hawkeye Classic. Saturday's game will most likely prompt the team to discuss a lot in practice, especially if the Cougars want to avoid another poor showing.

"We've got to take a look at ourselves," Gervin said. "We took a loss at home. Everybody's got to suck it up. This is only our fourth game of the season, so we've got to use this as a learning experience."

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