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Volume 70, Issue 71, Friday, December 3, 2004

Sports

Cougars will stay busy during winter break

Penders era has impressive results on players

Sam Khan Jr. 
The Daily Cougar

As students drag through their finals and head off to the near month-long bliss otherwise known as winter break, they should be advised to keep an eye on the UH men's basketball team while they're gone.

The Tom Penders era is underway, and it's off to a solid start to say the least, with the good guys sitting at 4-3 before they take on the Lamar Cardinals Saturday.

In case you missed it, here's a Cliffs Notes version of what's happened thus far:

This team has become much more exciting to watch as they've now adopted Penders' up-and-down style of playing, pushing it up the floor on offense and pressing fullcourt on defense. It's a refreshing change from the last few seasons when the team slowed it down and often walked the ball up the court on offense, seemingly content to play a halfcourt game.

Scoring is up big time for this year's Cougars, as they are averaging 72.0 points per game as opposed to 59.0 last year.

They don't shoot well -- 40.5 percent from the field and 64.6 percent from the charity stripe -- but they make up for it in the quantity of shots they take. Many of those shots come from extra possessions they get by forcing turnovers, as they force 21.1 turnovers a game while only committing 14.3.

As expected, backcourt mates Andre Owens and Lanny Smith lead the Cougars in scoring with 18.9 and 14.0 points per game, respectively. They've shown no fear to throw the rock up, as they combine for just over 26 shots per game.

They've both also found a stroke from outside the arc, as Owens leads the team in three-pointers with 22 and Smith leads the squad in three-point accuracy, hitting at a 45 percent clip.

Inside presence has been established by a combination of players, primarily junior forwards Ramon Dyer and Englebert Cherrington. They are the team's top two rebounders and provide solid defense to anchor the squad from the post positions.

Also providing some great defense has been junior guard Brian Latham, who has proven to be a ball hawk with his 2.5 steals a game, helping to jump-start the Cougars transition game.

Sophomore guard Dwight Jones II has been one of the leaders off the bench, providing a little of everything from an outside shooting touch (41 percent from behind the arc) to adding some pressure in the defensive backcourt.

Also contributing off the bench has been junior guard Chris Lawson, who's seen time at both guard positions, and forward Andrew Francis, who has provided an athletic, versatile option at the forward, showing ability to play both inside and out.

Here's how things will shape up during the winter break:

After Saturday's contest at Lamar, they'll take 12 days off before returning to action Dec. 16 for three games at Hofheinz Pavilion against New Orleans, Southeastern Louisiana and Louisiana State before hitting the road to take on Washington and Texas A&M to close out 2004.

The 2005 portion of the schedule will mark the beginning of Conference USA play, as they'll host 17th-ranked Louisville (note: Louisville is 17 in both polls) on Jan. 5. The break will then be rounded out with a road game at DePaul and home games against non-conference foe Centenary and Southern Miss. Students will be back to class by time they take on Texas Christian in Fort Worth Jan. 19.

So while you're decorating the tree, buying last-minute gifts and spreading the holiday cheer, remember to keep an eye on the Coogs, because by time you get back they may be looking like a squad destined to be playing in March.
 

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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