UH to tangle with Tulsa

The Cougars will enter the Donald W. Reynolds Center in Tulsa, Okla. with a strong notion of what rides on tonight’s game against Tulsa.

Houston improved to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in Conference USA with Saturday’s grind-it-out style 77-72 victory over Central Florida. The Cougars are in a virtual tie for third place with Tulsa (18-9, 8-4 C-USA).

However, the Cougars know how devastating last Wednesday’s 88-83 loss to lowly Marshall could turn out to be if they do not pick up quality wins during the last four games of the regular season.

‘We lost at Marshall,’ guard Kelvin Lewis said. ‘We’ve got to regroup and take it one game by one game. We’ve got Tulsa now, so we’ll be ready for them.’

Houston’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, Aubrey Coleman, agrees. He said each game would be crucial for any chance the Cougars have of making the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament.’ ‘ ‘

‘It’s real important,’ Coleman said. ‘Because Marshall was a stump in the toe for us; we had that game. I’m glad that we got it (past us). Now we have to focus on Tulsa.’

Both Tulsa and Houston, who will tip off at 7:05 p.m., are in the midst of a tight battle for the coveted second seed in the C-USA Tournament. That’s the seed on the opposite side of the bracket from conference leader and Associated Press No. 5 Memphis.

However, neither team controls its own destiny at this point. In addition to winning out, both squads would need second-place Alabama-Birmingham (19-8, 9-3) to drop a couple of games before the end of the regular season (Mar. 7) in order to secure the No. 2 seed.

Worrying about seeding would be looking too far into the future for a Houston team that needs to figure out how to contain the inside-out combination of Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan.

Jordan, Tulsa’s 7-0 center, averages 14.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He broke out during Tulsa’s run in the 2008 C-USA Tournament and has carried his dominance in the paint into league play this season.

Houston’s 6-11 center, Marcus Cousin, has struggled to stay out of foul trouble when playing big men of equal or more talent. The Cougars will need him to put up his average numbers of 11.9 points and nine rebounds per game to stay competitive with the Golden Hurricane.

For the second consecutive game, Lewis will face one of the tougher defensive assignments in the conference. Uzoh averages 14.6 points per game for the Golden Hurricane and causes most of his damage by taking players off the dribble and playing physical inside.

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