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Monday, September 25, 2023


Cougars trample the Herd on court

Just look at their stats and their record. The Cougars haven’t been this good for a long time – 16 years to be exact.

Houston’s 71-58 win over Marshall on Saturday night did not merely improve its record to a perfect 4-0 in Conference USA play, but at 15-3 the Cougars are officially off to their best start since the 1991-92, 25-win NCAA Tournament team.

"This is all new to me too," senior point guard Lanny Smith said after a season best 10-assists performance. "I was here when we only won nine games. The fact that we’re almost doubling that (win total) now, it’s amazing how far we’ve come. But we’re not satisfied now. We’ve got Memphis coming in here, so we’re not relaxing at all. We’re going right back to work."

After entering the second half with a 40-27 lead, the Cougars extended their point differential to a game-high 21 points after Marcus Cousin completed a three-point play, knocking down a free throw after fighting through contact and a foul following a no-look pass from Smith.

Cousin benefited from Smith’s passing, scoring six points off of his assists. It was Smith’s first 10 assists game since he dropped 11 on BYU in the opening round of the 2006 NIT.

"I’ve always prided myself on being a pass first type of point guard," Smith said. "I’d rather have 10 assists than 20 points any day. I’m glad I could get that done tonight."

Marshall surprised the Cougars at the beginning of the game by knocking down two consecutive three-pointers and jumping out to a 6-0 lead. The Cougars, however, responded with a three-point barrage of their own, going on a 17-3 run, which was capped off by a McKiver three-pointer, assisted by Smith, putting UH up 17-9 with 14:01 left in the first half.

McKiver finished the game with a team-high 19-point performance after shooting 4-of-12 from three-point land.

Houston maintained its lead and extended it by as much as 14 points when Smith nailed a three-pointer with 2:22 remaining in the game, putting his team up 40-26. After Smith knocked down what would turn out to be only his fifth of the season, Houston failed to score and went into the half with a 40-27 lead.

Senior guard Dion Dowell and senior forward Tafari Toney made plays on the defensive end, altering shots and getting blocks, which played a huge part in Houston’s early lead.

Early in the second half, Toney went up to block a shot and came down awkwardly on his left ankle, but he got up under his own power. Head coach Tom Penders said if all goes according to plan, he should be ready to face Memphis on Wednesday.

"(Trainer) John Houston is the best in the business at getting guys back from a sprain," Penders said. "He said it just looks to be a mild sprain right now. I asked him with about two minutes left, ‘if I need you to go back in could you?’ He said, ‘yeah.’"

Junior guard DaShaun Williams came off the bench again to provide instant defense, hounding opponents in a way that Houston fans haven’t seen since the departures of defensive gurus Brian Latham and Oliver Lafayette.

Penders, who is one win shy of his 600th career victory, said he wanted to make sure his team didn’t overlook Marshall and have its eyes set on Wednesday’s matchup with Associated Press Poll No. 1 ranked Memphis senior guard. Robert "Fluff" McKiver will attest that the strategy paid off.

"That’s all we were talking about all week," McKiver said. "Forget Memphis, we’ve just got to worry about Marshall. We handled our business tonight, so now it’s time to get ready for them."

Southern Methodist knocked off Central Florida 69-67 on Saturday night, leaving Memphis and UH as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in C-USA headed into Wednesday’s matchup.

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