Cougars look to sweep UCF

When the Cougars were picked to finish seventh in the Conference USA Preseason Poll, they started the 2008-09 season with a mission.

The players took it as a slap in the face and wanted to prove that they were indeed one of the top teams in the conference despite being relatively inexperienced.

There are only five games remaining on Houston’s schedule and it finds itself sitting at 16-8 overall with a third place record of 7-4 in Conference USA, but this team is not satisfied.

Losing in an 88-83 nail biter to the Marshall on Wednesday dealt a serious blow to a team that was on the outside looking in on the big dance.

The Cougars were riding a four-game winning streak going into Marshall, but an off night defensively squandered its chances of winning out the month of February and sending a statement to C-USA and the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

The Cougars will attempt to bounce back when they host Central Florida at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion. UCF will enter Hofheinz in a situation parallel to the Cougars. The 16-9 Golden Knights have a 6-5 conference record, trailing Houston, Tulsa and Texas-El Paso, teams that sport a 7-4 record.

Each is shooting for the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the Conference USA Tournament – seeds on the opposite side of the bracket from conference leader and Associated Press No. 5 Memphis.

Houston’s 16-8 record and RPI ranking of 95, according to, tells the story of the team. Despite its obvious talent, it is a team struggling to find its identity. Injuries, a suspension and – on some nights – foul trouble have forced Houston head coach Tom Penders to fluctuate his rotation.

Teams have figured out how to slow down junior guard Kelvin Lewis, assigning players to hound, face guard and deny the pure shooter from getting the ball for the entirety of games.

This has left junior guard Aubrey Coleman with more opportunities to take the scoring load into his own hands. Houston’s slasher has proven to be an offensive menace for opposing defenses, putting up 20 points per game for the Cougars.

Coleman lit up the Thundering Herd for 38 points in Wednesday’s losing effort, but his teammates struggled to get off their own shots.

This is a team that still believes it has NCAA Tournament caliber talent and would like to have the opportunity to showcase it as part of the field of 65.

Houston, however, cannot afford hiccups like it had against Marshall on Wednesday night.

The Cougars need to have their guard up against a UCF squad that will definitely be looking to avenge a 97-69 beat down it suffered by the hands of Houston on Feb. 4.

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