Men’s basketball faces Tulsa in key game
The 16-4 Cougars don’t have the luxury of looking over any team this season. With the possibility of making the NCAA Tournament increasing with each win, they can’t overlook Tulsa, which is 2-5 in Conference USA and 10-9 overall, but lost three of those conference games in close overtime periods. The two teams will face off at 7 p.m. tonight at Hofheinz Pavilion.
The Cougars, 5-1 in C-USA, are in the midst of a battle with Alabama-Birmingham, which also boasts a 5-1 conference record and an overall record of 15-6, for second place in C-USA.
"We’re just taking care of business and trying to win basketball games," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "It’s not about style. We play each game as a separate entity."
Defensively, the Cougars will have to keep the Golden Hurricane guards (sophomore Ben Uzoh, senior Brett McDade and freshman Glenn Andrews, who provides production off the bench) in check if they plan on winning the game and doing it in a convincing fashion.
It’s now the time of the year when margin of victory becomes important and every point counts – the selection committee is always watching.
Uzoh is putting up a team-best 14.6 points per game, complementing a 6.2 rebound per-game average. The Golden Hurricane looks to run plays and set screens for him to get going offensively. The 6-3 guard out of San Antonio also averages a team-best 40.3 percent from three-point land.
Andrews has put up 10.7 points per game in an average of 17 minutes per contest, while McDade leads Tulsa in assists with 3.4 per contest and puts up 7.3 points per game.
"We’ve got to be prepared to play man (defense) or combo, which is a combination of man and trapping (defense)," Penders said. "If one’s working particularly well, we’ll stick with it.
"They’ve got good guards. They’ve got a lot of athletic ability. This team lost three overtime games in the league, so their record is very deceiving."
Houston’s scoring machine, senior guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver, went off against Central Florida on Saturday, scoring 31 points in Houston’s 84-81 victory, including 23 in the second half. He aims to follow it up with a great performance to give his team an edge Wednesday.
"When he’s on, you’ve got to keep feeding him," Penders said. "He drove and attacked the basket to get to the foul line."
McKiver is the fourth-leading scorer in C-USA, averaging a team-high 20.4 points per game.
Penders stressed the importance of good student turnout at the remaining games if the team is to finish the season strong. He said although Tulsa may not seem like the marquee matchup, it is an athletic team that will make it a fast-paced, high-flying game.
"We don’t have the biggest target on our backs, but we have the second biggest targets on our backs," Penders said. "The crowds that we face when we go on the road, we can see it. They build the games up and they get the students out. We need to match that.
"It should be a very athletic and exciting basketball game, because they have a very athletic team. They’re not going to hold the ball. They’re an attacking team and a very good offensive rebounding team, too."