Cougars ready for senior sendoff
UH head coach Tom Penders wants to make sure his only loss tonight against Conference-USA and in-town rival Rice has nothing to do with the game’s final score.
It’s up to the Cougars (14-14, 6-8 C-USA) to avoid losing the game against the Owls (8-20, 1-13) on their own turf, but they have no way of delaying the departure of the nation’s leading scorer and the heart and soul of the team, Aubrey Coleman, who will suit up for the last time in front of the Hofheinz Pavilion faithful.
“This is the last rodeo for Aubrey, a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Penders said. “He’s the best player I’ve ever coached. It’s important for the fans to come out and show their appreciation for what he’s done here. We have three players who are local products, and they’re seniors, so we really need the students to come out and show their appreciation.”
Before tipoff, senior guards Coleman and Kelvin Lewis and forward Sean Coleman, along with their family members, will take their final bow at center court in a Senior Night ceremony.
After the applause, the Cougars hope to rebound from their bitter 94-83 loss at SMU. In that game, UH surrender a six-point halftime advantage and allowed the Mustangs to turn the tables with a 61-point outburst in the second half.
Coleman, who was named C-USA Player of the Week, finished with a team-high 30 points and nine rebounds. Reserves Adam Brown and Kirk Van Slyke added 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Papa Dia paced SMU with a game-high 31 points, connecting on 11 of 13 shots.
The loss to the Mustangs put the Cougars in a tie for seventh place with Southern Miss in the conference rankings. With so many variables as the regular season comes to a close, UH can finish as high as sixth place and as low as tenth in the standings before the Conference USA Tournament begins next week.
“This league is so balanced,” Penders said. “It’s a one-(loss)-elimination (C-USA) tournament. We feel like we can beat anybody in this league. I feel like we have a legitimate shot in this tournament.”
The Cougars topped Rice 83-66 on Jan. 6 at Hofheinz, but Penders still won’t take the Owls lightly.
“When we play Rice, it’s always a hotly contested game,” Penders said. “No matter what the records are or what the playoff situation is, we have to match their intensity because of the intense local rivalry that we have. I remember when I first got here and we lost to them by one point at the buzzer, and students rushed the floor like they just won a national championship.
“This is a natural rivalry for us, so we’ve got to be able to play at a high level of intensity, and we’re going to need our fans to come out and be loud.”
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m., but the Senior Night festivities will begin shortly before game time.