Men's Basketball

Hofheinz heartbreak

Early foul trouble limited senior guard Darian Thibodeaux to 26 minutes in the Cougars’ 59-58 loss to LSU on Tuesday. Thibodeaux was one of four Cougars to be hit with three personal fouls. The Cougars were also not as adept as usual at drawing fouls, getting to the line for just nine free throw attempts. | Aaron Cisneros/The Daily Cougar

For the second straight game, the Cougars lost on the final possession.

Getting defensive rebounds and taking care of the ball again did the Cougars in.

“I’ve just got to do a better job getting through to these guys and coaching better in close situations, because we’re four points away and there’s a small area there where we have to be more efficient there late in the game,” head coach James Dickey said.

A leaner from junior guard Jonathan Simmons gave UH a 58-57 lead with 9.1 seconds to play.

After what looked to be a strong defensive stand that forced a miss from LSU freshman guard Anthony Hickey, turned into a disaster for UH when forward Storm Warren grabbed Hickey’s miss and drew a foul with 1.2 to go.

Hickey drained both free throws and gave the Tigers the 59-58 win.

Like the Cougars’ 81-80 loss to TCU on Saturday, it was an offensive rebound that cost them on the decisive possession.

The Cougars made a strong effort to battle the Tigers on the glass in the first half, allowing just five offensive rebounds and forcing 12 turnovers.

The second half was a different story, though, as the Cougars gave up 14 offensive rebounds, while only forcing five turnovers — and suddenly their eight-point halftime lead evaporated.

“Coach told us this was going to be the strongest team that we’ve faced on the boards,” freshman forward TaShawn Thomas said. “We knew it was coming. In the first half we tried to match it. Second half they came out a little harder.”

The Cougars grabbed only 56 percent of their defensive rebound opportunities, giving up 19 offensive boards to the Tigers.

Turnovers were another area of trouble for the Cougars.

Primary ball handlers freshmen Joseph Young, J.J. Thompson and Simmons combined to turn the ball over 15 times.

Young had an off night, shooting 1-7, all three-point attempts.

Thompson brought energy on defense and was able to get into the paint on offense, but had problems finishing or finding teammates.

“He’s got to hit some and he has to take better care of the ball,” Dickey said.

Dickey said that LSU’s athleticism at guard played a role in the Cougars’ inability to finish plays.

“They’re smooth. They’ll pick your pockets, so you cannot ever relax,” Dickey said. “You cannot drive by a guy and not know wolf’s coming from behind.

“That happened to J.J. a couple of times. He got by them, but then he let somebody come from behind and strip him. Getting hung up in the air — I think one of the reasons we’re getting hung up is that we’re young and inexperienced, and don’t have the confidence to go in there and make a play like we really need to make — go until somebody stops you.

The Cougars also fell into foul trouble early, which limited junior forward Kirk Van Slyke to just 12 minutes and senior guard Darian Thibodeaux to 26 minutes.

“It’s frustrating,” Thibodeaux said.

The loss was frustrating as well, coming on a night when the Cougars held the Tigers to just 34 percent from the field.

The Cougars themselves did not have the strongest offensive night, knocking down only 21 percent of their attempts from three-point range.

“We’re young,” Dickey said. “Guy have got to play with more confidence. We’ve got to understand how to play the game.

“We recognize when to get inside. We forced it a few times. We had some good looks from the perimeter and missed them.”

UH received stronger offensive play from its forwards.

Sophomore Alandise Harris led all scorers with 21 points on 7-12 shooting and blocked three shots.

Harris also continued to showoff the new versatility of his offensive game, knocking down 2-3 3-point attempts.

However, Harris failed to make an impact on the defensive glass, finishing with three offensive boards, but none defensively.

Thomas led the Cougars with eight rebounds, and was second behind Harris with 13 points on 6-7 shooting. He also added two blocks and four steals.


Barnes debuts for Cougars

Freshman guard LeRon Barnes came off of the bench and gave the Cougars 16 minutes, grabbing four rebounds and handing out three assists.

“I thought he was really active and played hard,” Dickey said.

“Obviously his conditioning is a factor, he had to come out. But I told the team after the game, he’s a guy that’s really going to help us. He’s going to play a lot.”


Home court advantage

The Cougars’ three-game losing streak has occurred at home, a venue that should play as an advantage.

“Thanks to Darren (Dunn) and Mack (Rhoades), we were able to get this home schedule, and I told our guys, ‘We have these home games, but we’re not protecting our home court,’” Dickey said.

“You’ve got to revere this great building, Hofheinz Pavilion, Guy V. Lewis Court. This is your home, you’ve got to protect it.”

The Cougars’ next game, against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, is at home and then they have two road games. After that, UH is scheduled for four home games before their home Conference USA opener Jan. 4 against Tulsa.

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