When the Cougars’ 13-point second-half lead evaporated to a three-point deficit Saturday, they knew they would have to switch their strategy.
“We made a concerted effort to throw the ball to the block,” said head coach James Dickey. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to throw the ball inside every time, but inside out passes open up the perimeter.”
On three consecutive possessions, the Cougars found sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas who rewarded them with two buckets and an assist. Before Thomas’ first bucket the Cougars had not scored in the previous 3 minutes, 22 seconds of the game.
UAB collapsed on the paint after UH fed their post players and spaced the floor for 3-point shooters. Redshirt freshman Jherrod Stiggers got open looks at the rim and hit two 3-pointers in the final five minutes.
Dickey has stressed an inside-out balance, especially during the Cougars’ four game losing streak, which they snapped with the win against the Blazers. They have practiced post-entry passes to get the ball into the paint easier.
Ball movement has also been a problem for UH this season, as the team still hasn’t had a player reach double-digit assists in a game. Junior guard Tione Womack has the Cougars’ season-high with eight assists against East Carolina.
“We’ve been working on (post-entry passes) the last couple of days,” Dickey said. “We just want them to be balanced, be comfortable and have a good look at the basket. We’ve got some guys that can shoot the ball, but the best time to shoot the 3-point shot is after an offensive rebound.”
After an 87-72 loss to Tulsa on Wednesday, Dickey contemplated rotation changes but ultimately decided not to switch up his substitution schedule.
“You can’t just make a change and reward somebody that’s not really challenging somebody else,” Dickey said.
The Cougars’ defense has also held them back. “(We) haven’t been able to put together a full game of great defense”, freshman guard Danuel House said. Even in a win, UH allowed UAB to shoot 50 percent from the field in the second half.
“He asked us if we could give him 40 minutes of solid defensive action. Right now we are trying to come together as a team to play solid defense,” House said. “When we can do that, then it will ignite our team to play on another level.”
Senior forward Leon Gibson, who had the game-saving block, said UAB’s 18-3 run convinced UH they had to play tough defense and do whatever it took to win the game.
“We knew we had to come out of this game with a win. Somehow, someway we had to get the job done,” Gibson said. “Coach D-Rob (Daniyal Robinson) told us we had to come out with a fire in this game.”