Cougars to face top team

Road trips have not been friendly to the UH women’s basketball team, which faces yet another daunting task when it squares off with Southern Methodist at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Dallas.

The Cougars (12-6, 4-2 Conference USA) will face their third straight first-place opponent, as the Mustangs (12-7, 5-1) currently share the top spot in C-USA with Marshall and Southern Miss. UH head coach Joe Curl realizes how detrimental losing to SMU would be, considering the Cougars already lost a possible tie-breaker with Southern Miss because of their 74-65 loss to the Golden Eagles on Jan. 22.

‘We know that (SMU) has beaten some good teams,’ Curl said, ‘but beating Central Florida the other night showed we’re back in the saddle. We’re approaching it as another game; a game that we’re capable of winning.’

The Mustangs are currently on a four-game winning streak, which includes wins at Tulsa, Tulane and Texas-El Paso. A team that is working on all cylinders is always tough to stop, especially at their place.

‘We have to take care of the first four minutes,’ Curl said. ‘We’re going to try to have tunnel vision during the first four minutes. We want to establish ourselves and put a little doubt in their mind.’

UH’s defense has been tremendous at home, but transferring the same physicality and energy on the road has proven difficult.

‘We have to keep our defensive intensity,’ Curl said, ‘even in games that we lost, it was a matter of (the other team) getting a spurt on us at the wrong time. We didn’t have enough energy to come back, but I think we do now. I think we’re getting our legs (now).’

SMU has jumped on its opponents early, outscoring them 639-580 in the first half. The Cougars must set the tempo early and not allow the Mustangs to gain a comfortable lead, something that plagued UH in some of its road games this season.

‘The first four minutes establishes what’s going to go on,’ Curl said. ‘We have to get a spurt on them and take a little wind out of their sails.’

On the other end of the spectrum, the Cougars have outscored their opponents 641-603 in the second half. After coming back from a 16-point second-half deficit at Tulane on Jan. 9, the Cougars know they are capable of pulling out games in the clutch.

‘I’m excited about how our girls are going to respond,’ Curl said. ‘We try to feel out our players and see how they’re going to play. If somebody plays great in the first half, they’ll see more time in the second half.’

Curl said the Cougars’ biggest w’We feel like we can really put pressure on their guards,’ Curl said. ‘We’re quick enough to keep them from going to the basket.’

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