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Volume 68, Issue 99, Wednesday, February 19, 2003 


UH halts losing skid, beats USM

By Emily Davis
The Daily Cougar

The sound of Louis Truscottis elbow connecting with Jasper Johnsonis face echoed what UH had been hearing all season -- ouch..

Senior forward Louis Truscott scored 15 points and pulled down three rebounds as the Cougars ended a four-game losing streak by beating Southern Miss, 46-42, Tuesday at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

"Just put a Band-Aid on it, Iill be OK," Truscott said. 

His temporary fix worked Tuesday night as the Cougars limped to a 46-42 win over Southern Miss, snapping a four-game slump.

"This was a game of our will against theirs," coach Ray McCallum said. "It was two teams needing a win and we wanted it more."

Sophomore guard Andre Owens had eight points, nine rebounds and five assists in Tuesdayis 46-42 win over Southern Miss. UH improved to 7-15 (5-6 in Conference USA).

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

In a see-saw game with nine lead changes and five ties, UH finally had a victory in sight when senior Bryan Shelton nailed a three-pointer with 2:16 left to give the Cougars a 42-39 advantage.

But USM answered with a trey of its own from David Haywood a little more than a minute later, tying the score 42-42 with 59 seconds left.

It would take the dependable hand -- and elbow -- of Truscott to finally put UH up for good. Truscott, who was bleeding from his elbow but was in better shape than Johnson (he left the game with a head injury), shook off his pain to make a critical lay-up with 34 seconds left, giving the Cougars a 44-42 lead they would not relinquish.

"(Truscott) came up big when we needed him," McCallum said. "Making timely plays and shots is what a leader does."

But with Truscott out early in the first half with two fouls, the Cougars shot just 38 percent and trailed 22-18 at halftime.

UH roared back after halftime and snatched the lead, 25-24, with a three-pointer from freshman Cedrick Hensley with 16:31 left to play. From that point on, the game went back and forth until Truscottis big basket sealed it for UH.

"We came into the game with our hard hats on and a lunch pail in our hands ready to get to work," said sophomore guard Andre Owens, who had eight points, nine rebounds and five assists. "We just didnit start working until the second half."

Owens put on the finishing touches with two free throws in the final 33 seconds of the game. Although a recent scoring slump has plagued Owens, his latest accomplishment was vital to his team.

"We wouldnit have had this win without him," McCallum said. "His shotis struggled lately, but he came up big tonight and thatis what matters."

USM had two things going for it in the second half: Charles Gaines, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and a full-court press that proved too much for the Cougars, causing a 10-second back court violation and a UH turnover on the next play with 14:03 left.

"I was glad we were able to mix up the defense and disrupt their playing a bit," said USM coach James Green, whose team fell to 10-13 on the season, 3-9 in C-USA. "The ability to do this has kept us in games this season."

The much-needed victory not only stopped UHis four-game skid but also moved the Cougars (7-15 overall, 5-6 in Conference USA) back into the jumbled pack below first-place Memphis in C-USAis National Division.

"We had to get this win to keep us in the conference tournament," McCallum said. "With only five games left in our season, we have to play for the tournament."

Also vying for control are Tulane (13-11, 6-5) and Alabama-Birmingham (14-8, 6-5), who are tied for second in the division after Tuesdayis games, in which Tulane dumped South Florida 68-65 and UAB outlasted last-place TCU 88-85 in overtime. South Florida is 6-6 after Tuesdayis loss, a half game ahead of the Cougars.

After a strong defensive effort from senior Jeremee McGuire, who tied his season high of four blocks against Southern Miss, the Cougars feel they are ready to travel to UAB on Saturday followed by a trip to Tulane on Feb. 26.

"We needed to get this win at home to pump us up for our remaining season, especially the road games," McCallum said.

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