Hurricane whirls by Cougars

After defeating Southern Methodist on Friday, UH head coach Joe Curl said his team would not let its guard down against one of the worst teams in Conference USA, Tulsa, two days later.

Curl, however, cannot suit up and play the game for his players. UH dropped a 59-55 decision to Tulsa on Sunday at Hofheinz Pavilion, preventingthe Cougars (17-9, 9-5) from grabbing a share of first place in C-USA and knocking them into a tie with Central Florida for fourth place.

‘I’m very disappointed. Tulsa brought their A-game and we brought our C-game,’ Curl said. ‘Anybody in the conference can beat anybody, we know that.’

The Golden Hurricane’s size caused the Cougars to change their shots and commit uncharacteristic turnovers. Overall, UH shot a dismal 35 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers.

‘(Tulsa’s) front line is as good as any,’ Curl said. ‘Whatever we threw up, they seemed to block. They made us change shots.’

Forward Courtney Taylor scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but UH could never get the tempo in its favor as its offense struggled to get into a rhythm. The Cougars’ inconsistent defensive play led to very few fast-break opportunities, keeping Tulsa (7-19, 3-11) in control of the game.

‘We didn’t play consistently on defense,’ Curl said. ‘They wanted to play the game slow and ugly, and they controlled the tempo of the game from start to finish.’

The Cougars had better luck in Friday’s 75-73 win over SMU at Hofheinz Pavilion, as Taylor (game-high 23 points, 14 rebounds, nine steals) was only one steal short of what would have been only the fourth triple-double in UH history. Taylor, however, was unaware of how close she was to the historic mark.

‘I didn’t (know I had that many steals),’ Taylor said. ‘That breaks my heart. I just tried to play the passing lanes.’

UH’s 9-5 conference record places them one game behind conference co-leaders Southern Miss, SMU and Texas-El Paso, which all have 10-4 C-USA marks. If more than two teams finish the regular season tied for first place, then overall winning percentage will be used as the tiebreaker. UH’s overall winning percentage (.653) is No. 1 in C-USA.

The conference race is far from over, but the Cougars will need help. However, UH can only focus on its remaining two games, at Marshall and East Carolina. The Thundering Herd will host the Cougars at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, W. Va.

‘We don’t know what’s going to happen with the other games,’ Curl said. ‘We have to take care of our road trip next week. We have to collect ourselves and give our best effort because anything can happen.’

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