A few weeks ago head coach James Dickey said the identity of his team was its balance offensively; the Cougars have several players who can lead the team in scoring each night.
Now, Dickey’s vision is coming to fruition.
On a night when the Cougars struggled defensively, Texas Pan-American shot 50 percent from the field, the team had five players in double figures and rode their balance to a 96-71 victory.
Redshirt sophomore Joseph Young, who scored a game-high of 25, said the Cougars’ offensive options will push the team to get better.
“Everybody in our offense can score,” Young said. “We help each other score, and if we can continue to do that, then we’ll be a great team.”
The Cougars had a similarly balanced effort on the boards. They out-rebounded UTPA 37-24 and didn’t have any player with a double-figure total, though 10 players got at least one rebound. Senior forward Leon Gibson led the Cougars with eight boards.
Gibson only scored eight points in the contest but contributed energy and effort, helping spark a 16-4 run in the first half that gave UH a 16 point lead. He made the hustle plays. Gibson had four offensive rebounds before the break and dove for loose balls, giving his teammates extra possessions.
UH couldn’t put UTPA away. The Broncs responded to the Cougars’ 16-4 run with their own half-ending 12-2 run to cut the lead to single digits. During their run, the Broncs nailed five consecutive buckets, to cap a first half where they shot 57 percent from the field.
Dickey said the run both surprised and disappointed him.
“At halftime you should go in with your biggest lead,” Dickey said. “We had a 16-point lead and went in with a six point lead.”
“We didn’t play well the last four minutes, which is always a critical period.”
With sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas in foul trouble in the second half, Young and freshman forward Danuel House took the lead on offense. House scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. His shot wasn’t working from behind the arc so he starting driving to the rim and shooting the 18-foot jumper, House said.
Young drained seven 3-pointers, the fifth highest single-game total in Houston history and scored 19 points in the second half. Young (17.4 ppg) has found his groove in the offense the past five games, when he has eclipsed 20 points four times. Young is coming into his own, Dickey said.
“Anyone that knows (Young) knows he can shoot the ball. What he’s doing is he’s getting shots,” Dickey said. “He’s not hunting shots. He’s not taking bad shots.”
Young’s prowess from long distance will be big for the Cougars in conference play. Dickey said he wants to play an inside-out style where the guards feed Gibson and Thomas in the paint to get open shots for their shooters, if the big men can force teams to collapse.
The Cougars will head into conference play 11-2 and ready, Dickey said.
“We have six days, and in those six days we’re going to concentrate on are getting better and getting ready for SMU. We’re not going to look further than that,” Dickey said. “In conference play, everybody thinks they can win the league. The intensity level is going to rise.”