Cougars win conference tournament tuneup against USF
A dominant second half lifted to Cougars out of the American Athletic Conference cellar.
Junior forward Devonta Pollard led the Cougars to a 72-55 win over USF and into a tie for 10th place on Sunday at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Pollard finished on top of the Cougars’ scoreboard with 18 points, including 10 free throws and four baskets from the field. He grabbed 10 rebounds and five steals to earn his sixth double-double of the season.
Freshman guard Wes Van Beck continues to make his mark on the Cougars’ offense in the minutes he receives — he drained four 3-pointers, scoring 12 points. Redshirt junior guard Jherrod Stiggers remained a consistent team player as he scored 11 points and tied his career-best with seven assists.
The Cougars were able to stay on top of the Bulls, who outshot the home team 44.2 percent to 40.7 percent. However UH out-rebounded its visitors 37-25, including 17 from its own backboard. This led to 12 second-chance points in addition to 22 points scored off of 17 Bulls turnovers.
The Cougars took a halftime lead of 35-31 to make it the sixth time in their last seven games where they stood on top going into the break. The Cougars didn’t fall similar to recent fashion and kept a lead on the Bulls as they started the second half with a 13-0 run over the first 5:20.
The win moves the Cougars to a conference record of 2-14, something they hope will improve as much as possible considering the conference tournament begins on March 12. The Cougars have two games remaining in the regular season as they hit the road to take on the Tulane Green Wave on March 4 and return home for their season finale against the East Carolina Pirates on March 8.
The Cougars are now tied for the final spot in the AAC standings with the Bulls after their win Sunday night. The Cougars and Bulls are not the only tie in the AAC, though the conference-leading SMU Mustangs and Tulsa Golden Hurricane sit on top with records of 14-2 in conference play.
If the teams keep their positioning in the AAC standings, considering the current ties, the Cougars will likely face either the Mustangs or Hurricane. Although both teams got the best of the Cougars this season twice, Houston managed to stay within 15 points in two of the four meetings.