Thomas cleans the glass
After digging themselves into a hole at the bottom of the Conference USA standings thanks to a four-game losing streak, the Cougars will continue the climb back up on Saturday against UTEP after beating East Carolina last weekend.
“They’re all important now,” head coach James Dickey said. “We’ve put ourselves in a bind by the four losses and not playing as well as we could.
“For us, every game is important. We’re not putting any more value on any one but the next one, the next game. The next game happens to be UTEP and that’s what we’re getting ready for.”
The Cougars’ entire starting frontline — TaShawn Thomas, Alandise Harris and Jonathan Simmons — had big games against the Pirates, but Thomas’ resurgence was most encouraging.
After opening the season strong, averaging 10 points and 8.7 rebounds during UH’s opening three-game win streak, Thomas had slumped during C-USA play. During the Cougars’ four-game losing streak, he pulled down just 3.5 boards per game.
His 17-point, 12-rebound night against the Pirates has Dickey believing that he is back on track though.
“I talked to TaShawn about being more active,” Dickey said. “I thought that since Conference play had started he wasn’t as active offensively or defensively on the boards.
“One of the things that’s happened, and we knew it would, is they were going to come at him with physicality. I thought he played much more physically and tougher, and this will be even more so with the big guys that UTEP has.”
Thomas will be tasked with taking on 6-10 UTEP big-man John Bohannon. Bohannon is coming off of a 13-point, eight-rebound game against Tulane.
Senior guard Darian Thibodeaux believes that it just a matter of having a certain competitive mindset coming into each game and that Thomas will be strong for the rest of the season.
The Cougars will need Thomas, a freshman, to be consistent for the rest of the season to win games.
“I’ve told our guys, ‘You’re a freshman in that first semester. Once you get to conference, you have to play like a sophomore,’” Dickey said. “You can’t be up and down. You have to be consistent. He knows what’s expected of him. He’s started. You just have to go play and get ready every game.”