Cougars ruffle up Owls’ feathers
The Cougars used a 15-3 run, capped by a runner by sophomore forward Brittany Mason with 35.9 seconds remaining, to hold off Rice, 66-51, Wednesday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
The Cougars held a 51-48 lead with 7:29 left, but tightened up their defense to force Rice into four turnovers during the run.
‘Our runs have started on the defensive end,’ UH head coach Joe Curl said. ‘We’re giving the other team (only) one shot.’
Like most rivalry matchups, the game was tight for most of the way. UH held a 32-26 advantage at halftime, but found itself in a 42-42 tie with 13:44 to go.
‘When we were in the huddle, we said, ‘All we have to do is win (the next) four minutes,” Curl said.
The Cougars (14-7, 6-3 Conference USA) went to their hot hand, sophomore center Cobilyn Hill. Hill, who had a game-high 18 points, scored six consecutive points after the timeout to give the Cougars a 48-42 cushion..
‘I go out there and say, ‘I have a disposition to dominate,” Hill said. ‘The last three games, I’ve had the mind frame that it’s my time to shine.’
Rice (5-17, 0-9 C-USA) eventually closed the gap to three, but the Cougars kept their cool and continued to rely on their pressure defense.
‘The calm comes in the huddle,’ Curl said. ‘It was a good game to watch, but I don’t think anyone lost their poise.’
Hill added eight rebounds and six blocked shots. She and junior forward Ashlee’ Joseph played excellent defense against Rice’s forwards for most of the night.
‘For 33 minutes or so, we did a great job in the post,’ Curl said. ‘We play great post defense at times, but at other times we get relaxed.’
The Cougars continued their hot shooting streak, hitting 46.6 percent of their shots.
‘This time of year, a lot of people grind away in practice,’ Curl said. ‘A lot of the grinding we do is shooting. Our offense has opened up to give us open shots.’
The Cougars’ defense also showed continued improvement, forcing Rice to take several quick, low-percentage shots while under pressure. The Owls shot 31.8 percent and were outscored 36-20 in the paint.
Taylor led UH in rebounds with 10 and added eight points. She is still battling an illness, which makes Hill’s recent surge even more meaningful.
‘I’ve been more focused, and I’ve been playing harder,’ Hill said. ‘Courtney’s been carrying us on her back this whole time. She’s been sick, so it’s time for us to carry her.’
The Cougars will open a five-game homestand with a rematch against Rice at 5 p.m. Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion.’