Men’s Basketball: McKiver tells fans not to lose hope
Senior Guard Lanny Smith performed so well Wednesday night that it would be suprising if head coach Tom Penders doesn’t start him as point guard for the remainder of the season. Smith scored a season-high 16 points and had four assists in a must-win game against Central Florida, making the most of his 30 minutes on senior night at Hofheinz.
Only one regular season game remains before the Cougars head into the Conference USA Tournament, and Penders said Smith catching fire going into Texas-El Paso Saturday and the C-USA Tournament next week is monumental.
"I think it’s real big, because he’s a senior – a fifth-year senior," Penders said. "I’m a lot more comfortable using seniors in pressure games than I am using freshmen. It expands our rotation more, which is good. I can give (senior guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver) a break from playing the point all the time. I think that wears on you. That’s tough. Lanny’s got to keep being aggressive and playing like he did (Wednesday) night."
Smith is the only player on the current Cougars basketball team to have played in a post-season Tournament. He led the Cougars to back-to-back National Invitational Tournament appearances in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons before he suffered a career-altering injury to his foot prior to the 2006-07 season. He said he’s ready to push himself to the limit against UTEP and whoever his team faces in its upcoming post-season tournaments.
"As a team, we know our backs are up against the wall," Smith said. "We know it’s do or die. And me, this being my last go around, I’m going to leave it all out there. I’m going to go out there and play with all the heart and effort I can give. I could believe if we do what we’re supposed to do, we can still get there."
McKiver had similar sentiments, and emphasized how taking Saturday’s game against junior guard Stefon Jackson and the UTEP Miners would be pivotal to Houston’s momentum heading into the conference tournament. In terms of an NCAA Tournament berth, Houston’s life is hanging in the balance.
"It’s do or die right now," McKiver said. "We feel like we have to just try to win every game. We think UTEP is a big game to kind of get us over the hump for an at-large bid. If we (beat UTEP) we should be fine."
Houston walked away with a 77-75 victory against the Miners in its second conference game of the season, but Penders said winning in UTEP is a difficult thing to do.