Cougars outlast Nevada, stretch home winning streak to 8
The Cougars escaped with a 64-61 victory over Nevada on Monday night at Hofheinz Pavilion, despite struggling mightily from the free throw line and being out-rebounded by 18.
“I thought that, from our perspective, it was really an ugly win with the emphasis on ‘win,’” head coach James Dickey said. “You can look at the stats, but I’ve got to do a better job with our guys at the free throw line.”
The Cougars (6-3) finished 6-of-16 from the charity stripe but sealed the victory when Adam Brown knocked down two clutch free throws to give UH a three-point lead with 30 seconds left.
“We only got six in the first half,” Dickey said. “We didn’t make one, and then in the second half, we didn’t shoot them very well. We could have iced the game at several points in the second half late and didn’t do it, but I’m glad we won.”
Maurice McNeil and Kendrick Washington contributed to the Cougars’ poor numbers from the line, combining to shoot 2-of-9. They made up for it by combining for 28 points and helping give the Cougars a 40-18 advantage on points scored in the paint.
Washington led the Cougars with 17 points, and McNeil recorded a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“Mo had a tough time,” Dickey said. “I thought that he missed a lot of chip-ins tonight. I told him at halftime, ‘Hey, your teammates are giving you the ball; you need to respond and finish.’ He missed a lot of easy ones, but Kendrick’s coming in and really doing a heck of a job for us.
“We have got to get those guys rebounding. I was glad that Mo had the double-double, but when you take the shots that he took, he probably should have been about 8- or 9-for-14, rather than 5-for-14. He’s lost his confidence a little bit at the free throw line; we have to help him there.”
The Cougars were successful getting the ball to their posts near the basket, but the Wolfpack defense frustrated UH on the perimeter.
“They were smart,” Dickey said. “They didn’t try to block shots outside of the paint. They just got straight up and made you shoot over the top. When (they) do that, you just have to go up there and finish. We need to work on that.”
Brown, the Cougars’ leading scoring entering the game, shot just 2-of-11 from the field. He struggled at times to get good looks as the Wolfpack swarmed him upon receiving the ball.
“I told him, ‘When you shoot the ball as well as you do, people are going to get to you,'” Dickey said. “What they’re doing right now (is) when he gets the ball, they’re running to him. They’re making him put it on the floor. So you have to be able to drive, to get to the glass or mid-range and penetrate (and) pitch.
Brown was able to contribute to the victory in a number of other ways, grabbing 10 rebounds, handing out three assists and recording two blocks and a steal. He also knocked down four of five free throws and finished with 10 points to record his first career double-double.
“They started playing me tight,” Brown said. “They know I’m going to shoot the ball, so I have to find different ways to help my team win. There are a lot of other stats you can (contribute) besides scoring: intensity, rebounding, get assists, steals, blocks.
“I just try to go out there and focus on other things besides scoring, because I know that’s going to be something they are going to focus on stopping me from doing.”
Dickey said he is satisfied with the team’s two most recent victories, noting there are positives to be taken from each.
But he said there is still plenty to work on.
“I hope that this has allowed us to have some success … (and) to understand what we can do well and what we need to improve on as we progress,” Dickey said. “The good thing about the holidays is that as soon as finals are done, we will be able to get a lot of practice time.”
The Cougars will host Texas-San Antonio (5-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion. The game will televised on Comcast Sports Southwest (Ch. 129) and broadcast on 790 AM KBME.