Cougars poised to build on streak
The Cougars have chosen the right time to raise their game as Conference USA tournament time nears. The team only has six games left, with two at home, before the C-USA tournament tips off March 10 in Tulsa, Okla.
The Cougars take a two-game win streak with them as they travel to Central Florida for their second meeting of the season against Marcus Jordan and the Knights at 6 p.m. today in Orlando. Jordan, the son of Basketball Hall of Fame guard Michael Jordan, scorched the Cougars (13-11, 5-5 C-USA) for 23 points in a 78-71 win Jan. 20 at Hofheinz Pavilion.
“When you play a team twice and get beat the first game, it makes you pay attention, and I think our kids are paying attention,” head coach Tom Penders said.
With wins at Western Kentucky and at home against SMU this past week, the Cougars will try and steal a game from the Knights, who are coming off a 62-54 win at home against struggling Tulane.
Senior guard Aubrey Coleman leads the way for the Cougars, averaging an NCAA-leading 25.6 points per game, against a Central Florida team led by point guard A.J. Rompza, who is eighth in the country with 2.8 steals per game.
“I felt like Central Florida always plays us tough,” Penders said. “It’s a big rivalry game for them, and they have the win in the first game.”
In the teams’ first meeting this season, Coleman and the Cougars were stifled by the Knights’ defense, shooting a miserable 25 percent from the field despite 30 points and nine rebounds from Coleman. UCF (12-12, 4-6 C-USA) shot 51 percent and outrebounded Houston 45-31 in that game.
“We looked at the film, and they really hustled on defense,” Penders said. “We really couldn’t throw it in the ocean from inside or outside. We really struggled, but I’ll give them credit for playing hard.”
Coleman is coming off a 16-point performance in the team’s 66-60 win over SMU, his lowest scoring output since he scored 10 points in an 83-82 New Year’s Day loss at Texas-San Antonio.
The Cougars were able to overcome Coleman’s low scoring total with help from senior guard Kelvin Lewis’s season-high 29 points, along with a solid 7-for-16 outing from behind the three-point line.
“We’re not going to lose too many games with those two guys hitting, because that really opens up easy shots for everyone,” Penders said.
UH should feel comfortable in Orlando, having throttled UCF last season on the road 97-69. Coleman had 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals in that game.
“I hope we get some shooter’s confidence,” Penders said. “You always talk about certain arenas you play in where it seems like teams shoot better; we clearly shot well in the two games we played in their new arena.”