UH men’s basketball crushes Valparaiso to advance in tournament
It’s been 24 years since "UH" and "Final Four" were mentioned in the same breath, and fans have wondered if they’d ever have the privilege of doing so again.
Consider the wait over because the Cougars are on their way back to the Final Four.
Well, sort of.
UH defeated Valparaiso 91-67 in the quarterfinals of the inaugural College Basketball Invitational on Monday night at Hofheinz Pavilion and will advance to face Tulsa in Oklahoma on Wednesday night at a time to be determined.
Monday’s win had some historical significance because it sent the Cougars (24-9) to their first semifinal appearance of a postseason tournament since reaching the Final Four of the 1984 NCAA Tournament. It also marked the first time UH had won two consecutive postseason contests since 1984.
Granted, these wins came in the lowly CBI, but the Cougars will gladly take them.
So will UH senior guard Robert "Fluff" McKiver, who led the Cougars with a game-high 33 points on 10-of-19 shooting. He scored 21 of those points in the second half.
McKiver didn’t have to carry the burden alone. Sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis scored 28 points and senior forward Tafari Toney added 10 points.
Largely because of these three, the Cougars were able to outscore Valparaiso (22-14) 46-35 in the second half. UH controlled the tempo for the majority of the second half and was hardly ever threatened.
Valparaiso junior forward Urule Igbavboa led the Crusaders with 16 points.
The contest was much closer in the first half with the teams battling to a 19-19 tie with 10:04 left in the second half.
The Cougars, however, started to pull away. Lewis dropped in a 3-pointer to spur the Cougars 17-8 run that gave them a 36-29 lead with 3:40 left in the first half.
From there, the hits kept coming.
McKiver knocked down a three-pointer to put UH ahead 39-29 with 3:11 remaining. Toney added another bucket, and senior guard Marcus Malone connected on a three with 38 seconds left that sent the Cougars to the locker room at halftime with a 45-32 lead.