Men's Basketball

Cougars head into holidays on a high note

Junior guard Jonathan Simmons poured in 25 points against the Hillcats for his fifth-straight 20-point performance, leading the Cougars to a 90-88 win. Freshman Joseph Young helped shoulder the scoring load, scoring 22 points. The duo combined to shoot 15-23 from the field and 12-14 from the line. | Aaron Cisneros/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars were given one final challenge before head coach James Dickey dismissed the team for Christmas break: complete the back end of a back-to-back.

After taking out UTSA on Monday, UH (6-5) answered the call and held off Rogers State (11-0) Tuesday night 90-80 for their third consecutive win at Hofheinz Pavillion, and pushed their record above .500 for the first time in two weeks.

“It was good for us to have to play a back-to-back, for us to understand that you’ve got come back and play, and everybody’s got to be ready,” head coach James Dickey said.

“It’s always a little bit of a danger right before the holidays. If you’re not careful, that guys mentally go home early, but I thought we played with a lot of energy in the second half.”

The Hillcats appeared fresher at the outset and quickly gained a 13-6 lead. Junior guard Justynn Hammond led the offensive attack for Rogers State, opening up the first half lead to eight with a steal and dunk, prompting an early timeout from Dickey. Along with Hammond, Rogers State’s early run was fueled by guard Donald Williams, who repeatedly burned UH from long range with three treys.

Down 45-42 at the half, the Cougars shot to life coming out of the break, forcing multiple Hillcat turnovers to fuel a 13-5 run in the first three minutes. Holding a five-point lead, point guard Darian Thibodeaux stripped Hammond in an attempted crossover, and fed freshman TaShawn Thomas for a two-handed dunk that roused Hofheinz Pavillion to their feet for the time of the night.

Thomas finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four blocks.

“Coach tells us everyday: play inside-out,” Thomas said. “Whether its throwing into the post, or if the post scores, then we open the shots for the guards, and open threes. So we were trying to focus on that.”

Redshirt freshman Joseph Young responded strongly after posting an 0-3 shooting night in Tuesday’s win against UTSA. Young had 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, including several threes from well beyond NBA range.

“I know I can play this game. It’s just a higher level,” Young said.

“I came into tonight thinking about defense. Defense makes my shot better. So I came in, played good defense and knocked down my shots.”

After throwing in a crowd-pleasing dunk with four minutes remaining, Young sealed the night’s victory with a dish to guard Jonathan Simmons for a 3-pointer, giving UH an 82-72 lead.

“We want Joe to score,” Dickey said. “We just don’t want him to feel like he has to score to play well. I thought last night was a great example, but tonight he was terrific.

“We talked about what we need to do to get better. We come back from the holidays with two non-conference games left. We’ve got to be ready to play when we come back.”

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