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Volume 72, Issue 95, Monday, February 19, 2007

Sports

Crucial three-point baskets propel UH to win

Clutch free-throw shooting fuels dramatic second-half 
comeback at Hofheinz

by CHRIS ELLIOTT
The Daily Cougar

Before the Cougars defeated Alabama-Birmingham 70-64 Saturday night at Hofheinz Pavilion, they had been playing from behind since the tip-off. They seemed to be one decisive scoring run away from shifting the momentum and overcoming in the UAB Blazers -- and then junior forward Dion Dowell made three important three-pointers. 

The first one fell with 6:05 remaining in the contest, cutting UAB's lead to 52-49. Three minutes later, the second one found its mark to minimize UH's deficit to 56-55. 

Junior guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver found Dowell on a penetrate-and-dish play with nearly two and a half minutes remaining. 

Blazer forward Wen Mukubu, caught out of position, ran to the corner opposite of UH's bench to challenge the shot, but Dowell had already caught the ball and released. 

Dowell's shot fell with 2:22 remaining in the second half, giving UH its first lead at 58-56. It was part of a 16-6 run that completely shifted the game's momentum towards the Cougars' side of the court to seal a pivotal conference win.

It took approximately a second and a half for Dowell's third consecutive shot from downtown to travel from his hand to the bottom of the net. For that second and a half, 5,407 fans waited in anticipation to erupt, releasing nearly 38 minutes of emotional build-up. 

"He hit some big three-pointers to put us over the hump. Dion gets a lot of credit for this win tonight," senior forward Jahmar "Dunk Master Flex" Thorpe said. 

The Cougars (14-11, 8-3 Conference USA) overcame a game-high 24-point outing from Mukubu and a 12-point second-half deficit to take the lead over UAB (13-13, 5-7). 

Blazers head coach Mike Davis went to the hack strategy late to try and keep his team in the game, but that backfired because the Cougars hit their free throws.

Overall, UH hit 20-of-24 free throws (83.3 percent) from the foul line.

"Our free-throw shooting has been at 70 percent now for a good period of time," UH head coach Tom Penders said. "But you've got to make them at the end (of the game). 

"And that's been important to us in a lot of wins. We've had a lot of close wins where free-throw shooting was very important. On the other hand, we've lost a couple (games) by not closing them out -- but today we made them."
 

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