MEN’S BASKETBALL: Cougars crush The Citadel, 81-58
After losing to Mississippi State on Saturday, Cougars head coach Tom Penders appeared concerned about a possible letdown against The Citadel.
Those worries were quickly erased, as UH jumped out to a 22-4 lead and cruised to an 81-58 victory over the Bulldogs on Monday at Hofheinz Pavilion.
The Cougars (6-3) missed seven of their first eight shot attempts, but used tenacious defense to force The Citadel (6-7) to begin the game 0-for-11 from the field. Penders said he was pleased with his team’s ability to’ counter the’ Bulldogs’ sluggish Princeton-style offense with trapping and pressure.
‘Motivationally, the kids were ready to play ‘hellip; and get the last game out of their system,’ Penders said. ‘We made’ (The Citadel)’ look slower than they are’ …’ (and) they didn’t get many open looks.’
UH’s offense struggled to penetrate and’ generate good’ looks at the basket during the beginning of Monday’s contest, but its defense did not allow this to last long. The Cougars forced six turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game,’ which’ led to’ several fast-break opportunities (seven layups in the first half).
‘We wanted to force them to play quicker, take quicker shots,’ Penders said. ‘The comfort zone (big lead) of the game was created by defense, not offense.’
The Citadel shot 37.1 percent overall, including a dismal 9-of-29 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, UH connected on 27 of 59 field-goal attempts, displaying improvement from its 31.2 percent shooting performance against Mississippi State.
After UH began the game on a 22-4 run, The Citadel used an 11-5 run to cut its deficit to 27-15 with 5:56 remaining in the first half. After that, the Bulldogs’ never came closer to the lead.
The Cougars responded with a 9-2 run, capped by an Adam Brown jumper, to gain a 36-17 advantage with 3:51 left before halftime.
UH returned from the break holding a 38-23 lead, but’ it opened the second half on’ a 22-6 run’ to’ crush The Citadel’s chances at a comeback.
For Maurice McNeil, this game displayed the capabilities of UH’s defense.
‘We know we can play defense,’ McNeil said. ‘If we play defense like this, we won’t lose a lot of games.’
Unlikely and likely contributors step up
McNeil, receiving his first start since Dec. 6, delivered one of his best performances of the season Monday. He grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, scored nine points and blocked two shots.
The junior transfer from San Jacinto College said he was upset’ about the amount of time that he spent on the bench’ in the’ Mississippi State game. Penders, however, was ready to offer him another opportunity to prove that he should play more.
‘(He) really did a great job. ‘hellip; He was really active,’ Penders said. ‘I told him, ‘If you’ll rebound, you’ll put me in a position where I can’t take you out.”
Adam Brown bounced back from a 1-of-11 shooting performance against Mississippi State,’ coming off the bench to score 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Aubrey Coleman led the Cougars with 26 points (12-of-12 on free throws), while Kelvin Lewis’ scored 20 and chipped in six steals.
UH will continue its longest’ homestand of the year when it welcomes TCU to Hofheinz Pavilion at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Penders’ believes the Horned Frogs’ ability to out-work their opponents will test his team’s ability to play strong for’ an entire game.’
‘TCU is a very dangerous team,’ Penders said. ‘I’ve been very impressed with how gritty and competitive they are.’