Healthy serving of highlights in win
It might have only been an exhibition game, but there was a different energy on the court at Hofheinz Pavilion that has been missing in recent years.
The Cougars flew up and down the court, and earned a 118-70 win over Concordia on the strength of highlight plays from several of their first-year players.
Despite the win, there is still work to be done for head coach James Dickey’s squad.
“I love the way we play offensively and attack,” Dickey said. “But you have to play with equal energy and enthusiasm on the other end, and not lose your man and find your guy in transition — not be thinking about how good of a dunk you had or hitting that big three and going back with a home run trot and celebrating. You have to sprint back and find your man, find the ball and be ready to help.
“I thought shot selection overall was very good. I’m not very patient at times, but you have to understand that we have seven new guys, and they’re really trying to learn what we want in terms of two things that are really hard — one is shot selection and two is defense. They’re playing hard, they just have to be more sound.”
Freshman Joseph Young led UH in scoring with 26 points on 8-11 shooting, and 5-6 from three-point range.
Junior swingman Jonathan Simmons, who came off of the bench, also made an impressive debut, throwing down several monstrous dunks and nearly notching a triple-double — 24 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and five steals on 10-12 shooting.
“I was just anxious, ready to get out there and show the world what we can do,” Simmons said.
The trouble for Young, Simmons and the Cougars’ other ballhandlers was turnovers.
“Many of our turnovers came when we had possession of the ball and were too antsy to go the other way with it and didn’t value it and turned it over,” Dickey said.
“You look at our primary ball handlers, Jonathan, J.J. (Thompson) and Joe, had way too many turnovers. J.J. had three late. Jonathan was a little careless with the ball. Joe turned it over five times in the first half, but took really good care of it in the second half.”
The Cougars had a clear size advantage over the Tornadoes, but surrendered 14 offensive rebounds.
Freshman TaShawn Thomas was a bright spot in the post for the Cougars, finishing with a double-double — 14 points and 10 rebounds, while also blocking three shots and showing a strong handle in transition for a post player.
Thomas started at center, along with Young and Darian Thibodeaux at the guards, and Alandise Harris and Kirk Van Slyke at the forward spots.
Harris had a strong performance, posting 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals, but, like several other Cougars, struggled from the free-throw line.
“I was pleased we got to the free-throw line 31 times,” Dickey said. “But we have to hit them. I told Alandise his first two were not close. Sometimes that can be contagious.”
UH shot just 18-31 from the line.
The Cougars will hope to improve in those areas before their regular-season opener at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion against Grambling State.
“We needed something like this because people are going to make us scramble,” Dickey said. “We expect the same type of tempo from Grambling coming in here on Saturday.”