Cougars to take on C. Florida
After suffering a deflating loss at home to Tulsa on Jan. 9, the Cougars rebounded with a home victory over UTEP and a 19-point win at East Carolina to put them back in the thick of the Conference USA title race.
UH (10-7, 3-1 C-USA) can take another step toward establishing itself as a legitimate contender to capture the C-USA crown when it takes on Central Florida (9-8, 1-2) tonight at 7 p.m. at Hofheinz Pavilion.
The Knights come in as losers of two straight and six of their last eight games but boast a talented scoring backcourt of Isaac Sosa and A.J. Rompza, who are averaging 20.6 points per game combined. Sosa, who participated in this past summer’s FIBA U19 World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand, averaged 9.6 points as Puerto Rico finished sixth out of 16 teams. That exposure, along with an increased role in the Knights’ offense, has made Sosa a leader on the court this season.
“With Sosa, you have to guard him,” UH head coach Tom Penders said. “He’s a good player and a good shooter. They run a lot of good stuff, and they’re not easy to defend. They run a real team-oriented offense, and you’ve got to know where Sosa’s at. He’s capable of getting 25 or 30 (points), and he doesn’t take bad shots.”
Getting Sosa and the rest of the Knights to take bad shots will be job No. 1 for the Cougars. In UCF’s last two losses, Sosa was held to a combined 5-of-14 from the field for a total of 15 points. Those performances included a combined 1-of-8 effort from behind the arc, a surprising departure for Sosa considering he excelled during the summer’s international competition, hitting at a 46.2 percent clip, good enough for 10th-best in the tournament.
Rompza, on the other hand, has elevated his game over the last week, shooting 55 percent and averaging 15.5 points over his last two games. He also combined to connect on 50 percent of his 3-point attempts, helping to offset Sosa’s struggles.
UH will have to rely on its own talented backcourt, namely reigning C-USA Player of the Week Aubrey Coleman. Penders has noted that Coleman, the nation’s leading scorer at 25.0 points per game, has improved his game this season while adjusting to several new teammates.
“He’s improved in every area of his game,” Penders said of Coleman. “He’s overall taking better shots. He’s a better defensive player. He’s a smarter player, and he trusts his teammates more, but he also (has) the courage to take over when it’s crunch time and the game is on the line.”