UH strives for No. 2 conference seeding

Houston is looking to bounce back from a hard-fought loss to the Associated Press Poll No. 1 ranked team in the country, while Central Florida just wants to find a way to end its two-game conference skid.

When it comes down to it, both the Cougars (15-4, 4-1 Conference USA) and the Golden Knights (11-9, 4-2) desperately need a win Saturday to stay in the hunt for the all-important No. 2 seeding in the Conference USA Tournament – the seeding opposite of the projected No. 1 seed and conference juggernaut Memphis.

The Cougars are tied with Alabama-Birmingham for second place in the conference with a record of 4-1. The Blazers have an overall record of 14-6. The Golden Knights are one of three teams in C-USA with a 4-2 record. They are currently listed behind 14-6 Tulane and 13-6 Texas El Paso.

With such a tight race going on behind the undefeated Tigers, every game is shaping up to be a must-win for Houston.

One of the Cougars’ principle priorities Saturday will be to slow down junior guard Jermaine Taylor, who’s put up 21 points per contest. Taylor, a 6-4, guard-forward combo that put up 20 points in his last regular season meeting with the Cougars, will likely see pressure from sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis and senior guard Dion Dowell.

Houston’s other concerns defensively will be restricting senior guard Mike O’Donnell, who’s been known to knock down open shots against the Cougars, and senior guard Dave Noel from going crazy from behind the arc. Noel shoots an insanely high 47.2 percent from three-point land while O’Donnell shoots 35.8 percent and knocks down 2.4 per game.

Junior guard DaShaun Williams can play a large role in disrupting UCF’s game plan if given the minutes. He’s proven a more-than-capable defender in Houston’s last three contests. Against Memphis Wednesday, he played a career-high 36 minutes and was credited with six deflections and one steal. He also would provide sparks offensively, taking it to the basket and converting for a career-high 15 points.

Houston head coach Tom Penders said after Wednesday’s game that Williams has been his team’s best defender lately and will continue to see playing time while he’s hot. He added this might take away playing time from previous starters Lewis and senior guard Marcus Malone, but with the team as deep as it is, those two could steal back the minutes at any time.

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