Mustangs trample Cougars, advance in rankings
The Cougars (14-10, 8-2 in Conference USA) were in second place in C-USA coming into the game when they welcomed the conference’s fourth place Southern Methodist Mustangs (17-6, 7-3 C-USA) to Hofheinz Pavilion on Saturday. SMU took an early lead in the game and never looked back, finishing with SMU on top 74-51.
Houston certainly did not play its best. Sloppy passing led to 10 first-half turnovers, which the Mustangs turned into six points. Houston also missed five layups and a few short jumpers. The Cougars didn’t have luck with any of their shooting in the first half, going 9-of-37 (24.3 percent), which included going 1-for-11 (9.1 percent) from behind the three-point line. The Cougars also shot just 1-of-4 from the free-throw line.
"I’ve seen a lot of bad first halves that we played this year, but I’m not sure that wasn’t one of our worst," assistant coach Danny Hughes said. "We missed so many easy shots around the basket that it was just unbelievable."
The Cougars’ first-half performance fell well short of the Mustangs’, who shot 14-32 (43.8 percent) from the field, hitting 3-of-5 three-pointers along with all 12 free throws attempted. SMU senior forward Sharee Shepherd, grabbed 11 of the Mustangs’ 26 boards. The Cougars were only able to secure 21 rebounds in the first half. The difference in play led to a 43-20 deficit for the Cougars at halftime.
The Cougars have successfully come from behind four times this season, including a 24-point deficit against Lamar, but the 23-point lead the Mustangs amassed by halftime was insurmountable.
In the second half, the Mustangs jumped ahead to a 30-point lead, their biggest of the game, with 17:55 left.
Houston shot slightly better in the second half, making 10-of-33 field goals and 3-of-8 from behind the arc. Many shots were close, often going just off of the rim or in-and-out.
On a positive note, the Cougars corrected their turnover problems, only turning the ball over five times, half of their first period total. Credit should be given to the Cougars, though, as they played hard the entire game, cheered their teammates on from the bench and never let their heads hang low.
Hughes gave credit where credit was due.
"You’ve got to give SMU a lot of credit, they certainly came to play today," he said. "They did a great job of knocking down shots, and we didn’t do a great job of being able to defend there.
"I think the big thing is our basketball team plays with confidence, and when we don’t have that kind of confidence, then we struggle a little bit. I think you saw that today, where we didn’t hit shots, and it kind of led from one to the other."
UH freshman guard Jasmine Johnson finished the game with a team-high 14 points, and freshman forward Brittany Mason ended up with seven of the Cougars’ 44 rebounds to lead the team.
SMU senior forward Janielle Dodds and sophomore forward Brittany Gilliam finished tied with a game-high 17-point performance. Shepherd added two more rebounds to her first-half total of 11, to finish with a game-high of 13. The Mustangs totaled 51 rebounds for the game. Houston freshman forward Courtney Taylor went down in the second half with a minor ankle sprain and is day-to-day.
The loss snapped the Cougars’ eight-game winning streak. With this loss, the Cougars dropped to 8-2 in C-USA play, which keeps them in second place ahead of UAB and SMU. Both teams have a record of 7-3.
UH will now begin a four-game road trip, which begins at Texas-El Paso against C-USA’s first-place Miners, who are enjoying a 14-game winning streak. The Miners are undefeated in C-USA play, holding a 9-0 record, and have an 18-2 record overall.
The Cougars lost to UTEP 79-61 in their first meeting, which took place at Hofheinz Pavilion on Jan. 9. UH will have to correct some of the mistakes they made against SMU if they hope to come away with a victory against UTEP 8 p.m. Thursday.