Cougars look for a challenge in Chancellor’s Tigers

Cougar women’s basketball will have a tough battle ahead as they face Associated Press No. 8 Louisiana State tonight at Hofheinz Pavilion.

Former Houston Comets head coach Van Chancellor will return to Houston as LSU’s first-year head coach.

UH head coach Joe Curl and Chancellor have been friends dating back to the latter’s time in Houston. So when Chancellor got the job to coach LSU, Curl immediately seized the opportunity to schedule games with the Tigers, who are always a top team in the nation.

"It’s great for (Chancellor) to come back here," UH interim coach Danny Hughes said. "It’s great to have those kind of teams come in here and to be on a national level, because they’re the best there is."

Having a nationally top-ranked team play the Cougars is an excellent opportunity for the Houston squad.

It is always important to challenge the players on the team, and players can only get better when playing against good competition, Hughes said.

"I think, first and foremost, what a great test for our young ladies," Hughes said, "To go up against one of the best, maybe not where they’re ranked at this point in time, but certainly they are powerful," he said.

The Cougars will have to go into tonight’s game without guard Tye Jackson, one of their top senior players. Jackson was ruled out of tonight’s game after her knee swelled up, and her status is day-to-day.

Competition against top teams is an opportunity for freshmen such as forward Courtney Taylor, who has emerged as a top player for the Cougars. Though she was hampered by injury earlier this year, Hughes said she will continue to improve on her game.

"We felt like Courtney would be that type of player for us all along, unfortunately for us she wasn’t 100 percent healthy the first three games," Hughes said. "So, we’ve only really gotten to see what she’s all about since the Middle Tennessee game, and that’s the way it goes sometimes with injuries. She certainly did a great job last weekend against some quality opponents, and I look forward to continue to have that progress as well."

Taylor is averaging close to a double-double, with 13.5 points and eight rebounds per game.

The Cougars are coming off an 87-57 victory against McNeese State last weekend, and a win in this game would tie the all-time series at four games apiece.

The Tigers, who lost their last game against AP No. 5 Rutgers and are 4-2 in this young season, have never beaten the Cougars at Hofheinz, registering a record of 0-3 here.

The two teams last met in 1998 when LSU won 88-44 in Louisiana.

A centerpiece in the Tigers’ lineup is senior center Sylvia Fowles, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 18.2 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game. The Cougars will certainly have to pay a lot of defensive attention to Fowles, who is a national Player of the Year candidate.

Though the Tigers are heavy favorites, moral victory is not the only possible outcome for the Cougars tonight.

The Cougars will have to combine great defensive effort and scoring prowess to hang with the Tigers.

If Houston can blend both aspects of its game, the Cougars have a chance to come out of this competition victoriously.

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