UH’s pressure cooks Rice
The Cougars undoubtedly turned in their worst offensive performance of the season in their rivalry matchup against Rice on Saturday at Tudor Fieldhouse.
Usually a lack of offensive production against the Owls at the venue formerly known as Autry Court would spell disaster.
However, a Houston squad desperate for wins and some sense of consistency turned to another facet of its game – defense – to squeak by Rice, 56-51, marking Houston’s first win at that arena since 1996.
‘I don’t think we can play any worse offensively. Nobody wins shooting 29.5 percent,’ Houston head coach Tom Penders said. ‘It just doesn’t happen, particularly on the road. We made up for it with great free-throw shooting, outstanding rebound and some real sniping defense at the end.’
Houston’s disastrous shooting performance included a dismal showing of 7.7 percent on three-pointers (1-for-13). The Cougars’ shooters struggled to find range, going 0-for-5 in the second half from beyond the arc, so they turned up the pressure, forcing seven turnovers – including six steals – in the second half. Most of these occurred when Houston (18-9, 9-5 Conference USA) needed it most, during its 15-2 run in the final five minutes of the game.
‘It’s what I keep preaching to these players,’ Penders said. ‘It’s not about offense. It’s about defense. Some nights, offense isn’t going to be there, but if you focus on your defense and play great defense you’re going to have a chance to win. That was proven to them.’
Senior point guard Rodney Foster, the Owls’ floor leader, played only seven minutes in the second half and sat out the final four minutes after fouling out. Without its leading scorer and assist-man, Rice (9-19, 4-10 C-USA) had difficulty moving the ball up the court, let alone running its offense smoothly.
‘They turned up the heat a little bit, and we made some careless turnovers,’ said Owls center Trey Stanton, who picked up some of the offensive slack by scoring a game-high 18 points. ‘When teams pressure us, we seem to have hard times late in the games, especially without Rodney. That hurt us, not having him in the game, because he’s such a good point guard.’
Nick Mosley was a key component in Houston’s ability to stay in the game and eventually take the lead. The center played a season-high 20 minutes off the bench for the Cougars, contributing a career-high 11 points and nine rebounds, eight that were of the offensive variety.
‘I just try to do the things that other people don’t like to do,’ Mosley said. ‘Diving on the floor, getting loose balls and stuff like that. I knew coming into this game, because I’ve been here so long, that it was going to come down to the last three or four minutes. We have so much respect for them. Luckily we came away with the win.’