Houston’s cold shooting leads to loss in C-USA tournament

The Cougars’ NCAA Tournament aspirations were killed because they dug too deep a hole.
UH played about as bad as possible during the first half of its 79-66 loss to eventual Conference USA Tournament champion Central Florida in the quarterfinals Friday at Fogelman Arena in New Orleans.

Fourth-seeded UH (19-10) trailed 39-21 at halftime after shooting a dismal 24.1 percent and committing 10 turnovers and 11 fouls. The Cougars, however, rebounded in the second half, using a 12-2 run to cut a 22-point deficit to 47-35 with 13:36 remaining.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Fifth-seeded UCF, which earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, responded by outscoring the Cougars 16-11 during the next 5:25, upping its lead to 63-46. UH scored the next six points to close the gap to 11 with 6:22 remaining.

On the next possession, Golden Knights guard Chelsie Wiley, who scored a game-high 26 points, made a layup while being fouled by forward Brittany Mason and added the free throw to end another charge by the Cougars.

After a steal and an uncontested layup by forward Courtney Taylor, UH was within 70-61 with 1:55 remaining. Time was running out for the Cougars, forcing them to send UCF to the foul line for the remainder of the game.

UH, however, could not convert on the offensive end in the closing minutes, allowing the Golden Knights to make meaningless free throws and cruise to the victory.

The Cougars started the game flat, falling behind 16-6 after an Angelica Mealing jumper with 12:01 to play. UH appeared to be settling down after it scored four straight points, but the Golden Knights (16-16) answered with an 11-2 run, capped by Wiley’s trey, to up their lead to 27-12 with 5:01 left in the first stanza.

UH kept laying bricks during this stretch, making only four of its first 23 shots, which included several air balls. Meanwhile, UCF shot 12-of-25 from the field during the first 17 minutes of the game.

To make matters worse, Taylor – a C-USA All-Conference First Team selection – spent a decent portion of the first half on the bench after picking up her third foul with 5:38 remaining. The foul trouble extended to center Cobilyn Hill and guard Brittney Scott, who both picked up their second fouls with more than two minutes left before the break, causing the Cougars to rely on their bench to step up and make plays.

Taylor led the Cougars with 19 points and nine rebounds. Scott added 15 points and Hill chipped in 14. Guard Jasmine Johnson played one of her best games of the season, producing nine points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Despite the disappointing finish in the C-USA Tournament, the Cougars proved many doubters wrong this season. UH was picked to finish seventh or lower in the C-USA preseason poll, but won 19 games and went 11-5 in conference to finish tied with three other teams for second place.

The loss could be the end of the Cougars’ season, depending on whether they make it into the National Invitational Tournament. NIT selections will be announced March 16.

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