MEN’S BASKETBALL: Cougars open season tonight at Hofheinz
When the UH men’s basketball team takes the court against Nicholls State at 7 p.m. today at Hofheinz Pavilion, it will be the last Conference USA squad to tip off the regular season.
Head coach Tom Penders and his players are hoping the C-USA schedule makers were saving the best for last.
Penders enters his sixth season at the helm and will be looking to All-C-USA selections Kelvin Lewis and Aubrey Coleman lead the way for a team with high aspirations. The Cougars were tabbed to finish fourth in the C-USA Men’s Basketball Preseason Media Poll, conducted by the Orlando Sentinel.
‘A lot of anxiety goes with (the first game) for the players and coaches because (they are) anxious to get the season off to a good start,’ Penders said. ‘You hope you’re ready to play, but you don’t know until you play somebody.’
The Cougars will face the Colonels (0-1), a team coming off an 85-62 loss to Duquesne, in which they led at halftime. Junior guard Anatoly Bose led the way with 23 points for the Colonels.
Penders knows’ his team will be’ in for a challenge.
‘They’re picked to win the Southland Conference ‘hellip; by just about every magazine, they’re picked to win the (SLC East) division and represent the conference,’ Penders said.
The Colonels will be patient on offense, with Bose and guard Fred Hunter anchoring their backcourt. The 6-5 Hunter had a team-high seven rebounds to go with 12 points in the Duquesne loss.
‘We know that they are a dangerous ball club,’ Penders said. ‘They do a very good job of running an efficient offense, much like Navy’s football offense. It’s different from anything you will see all season long.
‘There’s a lot of passing and ball movement, and they’re a very good three-point-shooting team.’
UH went 21-12 overall and 10-6 in C-USA last season, and with Lewis and Coleman eating up backcourt minutes, the Cougars should be a tough matchup in every game this season. Lewis is coming off a career year with an average of 18 points per game, while Coleman averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
‘Both of them had great seasons last year, and I think both of them have raised their level of game. I feel good about having those two guys with the experience to lead us,’ Penders said. ‘Aubrey and Kelvin have worked very hard in the off-season, and both have improved and, I think, have earned the right to be called pre-season All-Conference first team.’
UH, with Lewis and Coleman, joins Tulsa, with Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh, as the only teams with two C-USA First-Team honorees.
The Colonels are on an eight-game road trip and will next play Friday at New Mexico.
With a tough non-conference schedule, the Cougars can’t afford to look past Nicholls State to Saturday’s road game against Western Athletic Conference opponent Nevada.