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Volume 72, Issue 102, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sports

Cougars running on their last legs

Victory over UCF would give UH breathing room

by CHRIS ELLIOTT
The Daily Cougar

UH is no longer at that point in the season where each game was just another game to be played. It's now a matter of life and death.

The Cougars are fighting for a postseason tournament berth, and their grudge match against Central Florida (20-8, 9-5 Conference USA) at 6:30 p.m. tonight for second place in C-USA could draw comparisons to a double-edged sword. 

A victory moves UH (15-13, 9-5) a full game ahead of UCF in the race for the second seed in the C-USA Tournament, but a loss would push the Cougars closer to the fourth seed and a potential semifinal match-up against Associated Press No. 7 Memphis, which swept both meetings between the two teams.

In the Cougars' last meeting with UCF on Jan. 24, they mounted a comeback to overcome a 20-point half-time deficit to win 73-70, behind the efforts of junior guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver and his career-high 36-point performance. 

It took an entire half for UH to adjust to Central Florida's pressure defense and ability to play the lanes in the first half of that game, and as a result it put up a season-low 15 points.

The Cougars will try to control the tempo this time around, passing out of traps and pressure situations to avoid costly turnovers and limit easy buckets for the Golden Knights. 

A 15-13 record doesn't bode to well for UH in terms of receiving an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Teams from mid-major conferences generally need over 20 wins, including decisive victories over Top 25 programs to get recognition from the selection committee. 

However, Houston does have an alternative: the National Invitational Tournament. If the Cougars can reach 18 wins and make a strong run in the C-USA tournament, they could earn their third consecutive NIT appearance.

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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