Hill, Cougars outlast Owls
Rice had no answer for Cobilyn Hill, as the sophomore center scored a career-high 26 points to drive UH to a 70-50 rout of the Owls on Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Hill shot 11-of-13 from the field and grabbed nine boards to lead the Cougars (15-7, 7-3 Conference USA) to their third consecutive victory.
‘I’ve been a little more focused and confident,’ Hill said. ‘(Before), I’d miss a couple of shots and get down on myself. Now, I miss one and say, ‘That’s in the past; I’ll get the next one.”
UH head coach Joe Curl is pleased with Hill’s progression, but knew since the beginning of the season that she could dominate.
‘She had some inconsistency, but we stuck with her,’ Curl said. ‘Until she really wanted to move up and down the court and have that disposition, the ball was in her court. We put a personal challenge on her, but she also put a personal challenge on herself.’
The Cougars never trailed, jumping out to a 12-0 lead in the first four minutes. UH ran its offense through Hill, but unselfish play by the entire team kept Rice (5-18, 0-10 C-USA) on its heels defensively.
‘We had 18 assists (on 25 field goals),’ Curl said. ‘That says a lot about us moving and passing the ball. With 18 assists, we are absolutely moving in the right direction.’
Curl said Hill’s effectiveness makes the Cougars’ offense flow much more smoothly.
‘It makes the outside open up,’ Curl said. ‘With her coming on, we can plan our strategy against our next opponent with a little bit more confidence. It helps us all the way around.”
On the other end, the Cougars held the Owls to 31.7 percent shooting. Rice struggled to penetrate and get good looks at the basket because of UH’s strong interior defense.
‘When we played them at Rice (on Wednesday), our post defense kind of killed us,’ said sophomore forward Courtney Taylor, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds for her 22nd career double-double. ‘The main emphasis was keeping (Rice) off the boards. Everybody had the mindset to go get the ball.’
However, the Cougars did not step up and take charges when Rice managed to sneak into the paint.
‘I’m really disappointed that we didn’t take any charges,’ Curl said. ‘I felt like there were a number of times when we should have taken a charge. I don’t know if our kids really understand the magnitude of a charge. If you take a charge, that’s a turnover plus a foul.”
UH held a 27-13 lead with 6:49 left in the first half, but the Owls used a 9-2 run, capped by a layup from freshman guard D’Frantz Smart off a UH turnover, to cut the deficit to 29-22.
Rice stayed within striking distance throughout most of the second half, but was unable to get any closer than eight points. The Cougars had several chances to break the game open, but the Owls made big shots and forced turnovers when they appeared to be finished.
‘We got a little sloppy with the ball at times,’ Curl said. ‘They’re very quick and athletic and got into the passing lane. I’m disappointed that we turned it over 23 times.’
UH finally delivered the knockout punch in the closing minutes. Curl contributed the Cougars’ final run to a higher level of intensity and focus.
‘We got on the girls about the seven minute mark of the second half (and said) we really had to perform these final seven minutes,’ Curl said. ‘Our coaches and our players really dialed it up a notch, and that’s when we pulled away.’