Seniors find success in final home game
As the clocked ticked down on their final home game, senior starters Aubrey Coleman, Kelvin Lewis and Sean Coleman met the moment, scoring in double figures as the Cougars (15-14, 7-8 C-USA) beat Rice 78-70.
“That’s our rival and everything, but we just took it as another game to get ready for the conference tournament,” Lewis said.
Sean Coleman had a career-high 12 points, and the win assured Houston at least an eighth seed in next week’s C-USA Tournament.
“It was a good night,” Sean Coleman said. “We just tried to maintain our poise and pull out the victory.”
The Cougars got hot in the middle of the first half, making six of seven shots after starting 3-12 from the field. The run brought them a 23-18 lead after falling behind 13-7 12 minutes into the game.
Houston took a 39-31 lead into the half as Coleman found Desmond Wade wide open under the basket for a layup as time expired. Houston finished the first half on an 11-4 run.
Coleman paced the seniors with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Lewis chipped in with 16 points, including four three-point field goals. Rice freshman Suleiman Braihmoh had a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The second half began with Rice’s Connor Frizzelle driving to the hole for an easy layup, but Lewis and Coleman hit three straight three-pointers as Cougars rushed to their biggest lead at 48-33.
Rice (8-21, 1-14 C-USA) stormed back in the game with a 17-2 run to take the lead 63-62 with 7:23 left to play.
“We gave them second chance points and we made some turnovers,” Lewis said. “We started eliminating those to finish the game out.”
Coleman sealed the win with a three point shot as the shot clock expired and, with back-to-back Rice turnovers, junior guard Zamal Nixon made consecutive buckets to give Houston a 76-65 lead with 1:16 left.
“It was the type of game I expected in terms of competiveness. If you told me we were going to win by two, I’d take it,” head coach Tom Penders said. “Whenever Rice and Houston play, it is going to be a dog fight. Never pick a fight with somebody that has nothing to lose, and (Rice) played that way.”