Coleman unable to do it alone
The performance given by UH junior guard Aubrey Coleman in Saturday’s 83-68 road loss to Associated Press No. 18 Memphis probably left fans wondering, ‘What if?’
What if Coleman, who scored a career-high 35 points, hadn’t been ejected for a flagrant foul and was available down the stretch in a 96-90 overtime loss to Arizona on Jan. 24? What if Conference USA hadn’t suspended Coleman for Wednesday’s contest against Texas-El Paso, which the Cougars lost 62-55?
On Saturday, fans were left wondering, ‘What if someone other than Coleman had stepped up against Memphis?’
The answer is simple. The Cougars (12-7, 3-3 C-USA) would have had a much better chance at upsetting the Tigers than they had with Coleman doing all the work. Memphis (18-3, 7-0 C-USA) is too good a program to be brought down by one man.
Of course, fans might also have been wondering, ‘What if Coleman hadn’t played as well as he did against Memphis?’
That answer is simpler. The Cougars would have been beaten by 40 points or more and laughed off the court.
Coleman is hands-down the Cougars’ best player. With him on the court, they can hold their own against most teams. Without him, they can do plenty of wrong.
If Coleman didn’t play well against Memphis, he would have had some excuses in his favor. After all, he had been dogged all week by fans and media across the nation for stepping on the face of Arizona junior forward Chase Budinger, despite issuing a public apology. The FBI was called in to investigate threats that were made on his life. He was forced to sit out a game the Cougars very easily could have won with him.
Fortunately, Coleman was able to shake off the negative attention and deliver his best outing of the season.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, it wasn’t quite enough.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘
On an island by himself
Coleman did everything he could to keep Saturday’s game close, adding a team-high nine rebounds and two steals and hitting 11 of 12 free throws. He played solid defense, drew a lot of contact and hit several long-range jumpers, something he usually is not efficient at doing. Memphis didn’t have a player who could really stop him.
The Tigers, however, didn’t have any problems shutting down Coleman’s teammates.
Senior center Marcus Cousin (five points, six rebounds) and junior forward Qa’rraan Calhoun (two points, two rebounds) might as well have been statues. Junior guard Kelvin Lewis, the Cougars’ leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, had only two points after halftime and no assists. He finished with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
Sophomore point guard Zamal Nixon was somewhat effective, but not nearly enough. And the Cougars received next to nothing from their bench.
Even worse, the Cougars were killed on the boards. Memphis out-rebounded UH 44-30, which contributed heavily to the Tigers’ 26 second-chance points (19 more than the Cougars).
Coleman is many things, but he isn’t Superman. He could have scored 50 points, and the Cougars probably would have still found a way to lose the game.
Untimely chain reaction
Coleman did more than his fair share, so he’s free of any blame for Saturday’s loss. It’s not his fault that his teammates didn’t show up ready to play, as evidenced by Memphis’ 15-0 run to start the game.
Unfortunately for Coleman, his ejection from the Arizona game produced a sort of domino effect on the Cougars’ season. That incident cannot be overlooked.
His departure from the aforementioned game had a hand in the Cougars blowing a 10-point lead in the final 52 seconds of regulation. That loss was followed by another against a UTEP squad that could have been beat. And of course, the Cougars’ struggles continued with Saturday’s defeat, which further squashed any hopes they had for earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
When the skid ends is anyone’s guess. But until it does, fans can’t help but wonder, ‘What if?’