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Volume 70, Issue 79, Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sports

Cougars on track to make it to the Big Dance in '05

Penders has taken 3 teams to March Madness

Sports Commentary

Todd Kastendiek

UH head coach Tom Penders is once again living up to his name as "Mr. Fix It." The Cougars (12-8) surpassed their win total from last year two weeks ago when they won their 10th game.

Perhaps the best part in all of this is that they are exciting to watch again. The pace of the game is faster, and prior to last night's loss to Tulane, the Cougars were undefeated at home. Penders has made them a tough team to beat at home for any visiting team, including No. 12 Louisville, which was upset Jan. 5, 70-67.

Penders is on the verge of coaching his fourth team into the NCAA Tournament. Prior to this season, Penders took Rhode Island to the Big Dance once, Texas eight times and George Washington once. If Penders succeeds, he will be the fifth coach in NCAA history to take four different teams to the NCAA tournament. This is what UH hired him for, and it is an added bonus that he was able to do it so soon. Last year, the Cougars were 9-18 (3-13 in Conference USA). Now, with Penders they are on pace to reverse those numbers and earn a ticket to March Madness.

Penders' style has the players running up and down the court, but most importantly it gives them the confidence they will need once they get into the postseason. Let's face it, anything can happen in the tournament. Words like Cinderella team, or upset special, come to mind.

And as long as the players believe in Penders' system, they have a great opportunity to go to the Dance and strut their stuff. Senior Andre Owens is leading the way with 17.1 points per game (fourth in C-USA). Senior Lanny Smith is not far behind with 14.9, and Ramon Dyer leads the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game. They believe and so should the rest of the UH students.

It would also be nice if the Cougars could play in front of a bigger crowd; they deserve it. We don't want them to be the Montreal Expos of college basketball. If you haven't been to Hofheinz yet, you better go and see these guys in person, or you could wait a couple of months and catch them on CBS in mid-March.

This team should be looking forward to the change that comes with an extended season. The Cougars haven't been a part of March Madness since 1992, and they haven't won a tournament game since 1984 when Guy V. Lewis was around. But now, thanks to Penders, basketball is fun again at the University of Houston, and the players and the school can look forward to many years of great games on the hardwood of Hofheinz Pavilion.
 

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