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Volume 68, Issue 109, Wedenesday, March 12, 2003

Sports

Cougars get a do-over in tournament

By Emily Davis
The Daily Cougar

Louis Truscott must be tired.

His 15 double-double performances and league-leading average of 11.3 rebounds per game have carried the UH menis basketball team all season. Now that the Cougars get to test their skills in the Conference USA Tournament this week, he will have to carry them again.



Senior forward Louis Truscott will be called on to lead the Cougars as they begin play in the Conference USA Tournament at 2:30 p.m. today against Tulane.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

"We will lean on (Truscott) for all he has to offer in the postseason," assistant coach Brian Hecker said. "Heis a senior and brings the experience we need to the game."

Truscottis efforts have not gone unnoticed this season. Not only did he earn C-USA Player of the Week honors in January and find his name on the National Association of Basketball Coachesi All-District list in February, but the 6-6 forward can now add a C-USA All-Conference first-team selection to his resume.

Joining four of the best players in NCAA Division I basketball, including No. 15 Louisvilleis Reece Gaines and No. 8 Marquetteis Dwayne Wade, Truscott no doubt knows it will all be for naught if he and his teammates are outplayed this week.

"Come tournament time, everyone starts with a clean slate," Hecker said. "It doesnit really matter how well a player did in the regular season, because one off game will send us home."

So leaving a less-than-perfect 8-19 record (6-10 in C-USA) in the past will be easy for the 11th-seeded Cougars, who face No. 6 seed Tulane at 2:30 p.m. today in Louisville, Ky., in the first round of the C-USA tournament.

UH has already lost to the Green Wave twice this season. In the teams' first meeting, Tulane put the brakes on the Cougarsi longest winning streak of the year (three games), handing them a 65-58 loss in Hofheinz Pavilion. Three weeks later, Tulane edged UH 56-52 in New Orleans.

"Weire just holding to the old cliche that itis hard to beat a team three times in the same year," Hecker said. "Weive always had competitive games against Tulane. Weire not going in overconfident, but neither are they."

UH can be confident in the abilities of sophomore guard Andre Owens and freshman forward Cedric Hensley

Owens was the team's second-best scorer in the regular season, averaging 13.9 points per game, while Hensley has steadily improved his game, notching 11 points, six rebounds and two steals against DePaul last week.

"We will really be relying on (Owens) and (Hensley) in the tournament," Hecker said. "Hensley is playing much better. We donit want to put too much pressure on him since he is a freshman, but weill definitely need him to have a strong game."

But the entire team will need to pick up its game if it hopes to get past Tulane and survive deeper in the tournament. Three of the 12 teams in the tournament are nationally ranked -- Louisville, Marquette and No. 16 Memphis.

"Of course we prepare in advance for all the possible games we might play," Hecker said. "Since weive played all but two teams in the conference, we have a level of familiarity that will help us."

Two teams UH did not face in the regular season were perennial powers Marquette and Cincinnati. This is the first time in league history that Cincinnati has not entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Instead, Marquette is the top seed and the fifth-seeded Bearcats will play last-place Southern Miss in the first round.

"Every team has their nemesis game they have to play," Hecker said. "But when it comes down to it, you have to worry about yourself in tournament play. Thatis the only way to survive."

 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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