Houston annihilates Knights
Houston’s 97-69 win over Central Florida on Wednesday night didn’t exactly establish its dominance in Conference USA.
However, it did give a young, talented team its confidence back and has set the Cougars up to make a February run in C-USA play that it desperately needs if it wants to reach the NCAA Tournament.
‘We’ve been in this situation in past years. You want to be playing your best ball in February and March,’ Houston head coach Tom Penders said. ‘If we can do that, we’ll have a chance to finish real strong. We’ve got to take care of business. Next up is Rice, and they’ve been resting all week waiting for us.’
With the win, the Cougars improved to 13-7 and 4-3 in C-USA, gaining ground on the Golden Knights (15-7, 5-3 C-USA), who are tied for third place with Alabama-Birmingham.
Junior guard Aubrey Coleman proved once again that he is one of the most versatile players in the country. He spurred two huge runs for the Cougars, finishing with a game-high 30 points and team-high 10 rebounds. He also closed possessions on the defensive end and extended plays on the offensive side of the ball.
‘The only person who can stop Aubrey is Aubrey,’ Penders said. ‘He’s got such strength and deception to his game offensively.’
The first run was a four-minute, 18-6 outburst, capped off by junior forward Qa’rraan Calhoun’s layup – off an assist from Coleman – and free throw, which gave the Cougars a 29-13 lead with 8:05 remaining in the first half.
The Cougars led by as many as 20 in the first half thanks to contributions from Coleman, freshman point guard Desmond Wade and junior guard Kelvin Lewis, who bounced back from a 10-point performance against Memphis to finish with 17 Wednesday. The Cougars went into the locker room at halftime with a 43-28 lead and pounded UCF into submission in the second half.
Calhoun snapped out of his three-game offensive slump by consistently finishing at the basket and knocking down jumpers to finish with 18 points.
‘His effort was great tonight. I’m happy for him,’ Penders said. ‘He’s been struggling the last couple of games. I was scared he would lose his confidence, but he did a good defensively and he also knocked down some nice shots to close that door on UCF.’
For the second consecutive game, sophomore point guard Zamal Nixon got the start over Wade. For Penders, however, it was a strategy that worked. Wade came off the bench with 13 minutes left in the first half and immediately changed the flow of the game.
Wade went to work within one minute, stealing the ball from Golden Knights freshman guard Isaac Sosa and turning it into an easy layup.
That was the beginning of a highly productive night for Wade. He continued to create mayhem on the defensive end for UCF’s guards, finishing with eight points, six assists and three steals.
‘Desmond’s pressure on the ball was huge,’ Penders said,’ ‘and he also had a great floor game. He looks like he’s where he was before he got hurt, and that was in the UMass game (in December).’