MEN’S BASKETBALL: Cougars head to Alaska for early-season tourney
The UH men’s basketball team continues its four-game road trip when it travels to Anchorage, Alaska, to compete in the Great Alaska Shootout.
The tournament takes place Thursday through Saturday, and UH will play games against Oklahoma and San Diego, as well as a yet-to-be-determined third opponent.
UH (1-1) is coming off a tough 112-99 loss at Nevada, despite receiving 32 points from Aubrey Coleman. Coleman also’ added a team-high seven rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Head coach Tom Penders was more than pleased with Coleman’s play.
‘(Coleman) pushes the ball, gets down the floor, gets into the lane (or) foul line,’ Penders said. ‘He creates havoc for the other team’s defense.’
The Cougars also got a spark off the bench from junior Adam Brown, who found his stroke from behind the arc. Brown scored a career-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers, to help Houston mount a late comeback attempt.
Penders cited Brown’s play as an example of how bench players need to be ready’ to perform’ at all times.
‘You’re not sure what to expect yet,’ Penders said. ‘(Brown) played five minutes in the first game, he didn’t complain or anything. Then, (Saturday), he was really ready.’
The Cougars will need to rebound, defend better and continue their hot shooting’ to’ succeed in’ this week’s tournament.
Although the Cougars shot 44 percent from the field in Saturday’s game, and 50 percent in the second half, the key heading into the matchup with Oklahoma (3-1) is winning the rebound battle, something UH struggled with in the loss to Nevada. The Wolf Pack outrebounded the Cougars 57-27 and converted on offense to the tune of 60.9 percent shooting from the field.
The Cougars will have to defend lightning-quick guards Tony Crocker and Willie Warren, who lead a Sooners team coming off an 82-69 loss at Virginia Commonwealth.
Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel is still trying to find a way to replace brothers Blake and Taylor Griffin, who departed for the NBA after leading the Sooners to the Elite Eight of the 2009 NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national champion North Carolina.
‘Willie Warren is (a) projected top-15 pick. That’s their leading scorer and another headache,’ Penders said. ‘They’re a Top 25 team (now No. 26), but winning on the road is the hardest thing in basketball, and (Oklahoma) found that out at VCU.’
Warren and Crocker are two of five Sooner scorers averaging in double-figures, with Warren averaging a team-high 6.7 assists per game.
After Thursday’s game against Oklahoma, the Cougars, who are in Pool B, will play San Diego (2-1).
The Toreros are led by co-West Coast Conference Player of the Week De’Jon Jackson, who is averaging 17.7 points per game. Head coach Bill Grier is in his third season with San Diego and led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
Other teams in the Great Alaska Shootout include host Alaska Anchorage, Washington State and Nicholls State. The Cougars’ third-day opponent on Saturday will be determined based on the results of their first two games.
‘Our focus is to win on Thursday night,’ Penders said. ‘We are going to have to play a much better game on the defensive end, and hopefully Oklahoma isn’t shooting like Nevada shot.’
UH returns home after this week’s tournament to face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 2 p.m. Dec. 6 at Hofheinz Pavilion.’ That contest will’ mark the first of six consecutive home games, a stretch that runs to Dec. 29.