Increased defensive intensity leads UH to win against Howard
As he made his way to the locker room after a team high in scoring, sophomore guard Danuel House was graced with embraces and smiled as he took photos with fans.
The Cougars’ win, however, was less photogenic.
UH (5-0) defeated Howard (2-4) 75-62 in the Houston Regional Round of the Progressive Legends Classic on Thursday at Hofheinz Pavilion, fending off a sluggish start.
“I thought we came out ready, and they just punched us in the mouth. We definitely weren’t ready at the start,” said junior forward TaShawn Thomas.
The Bison held a double-digit lead midway through the first half as the Cougars struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Before junior guard Brandon Morris hit two free throws with 13:03 before the half, the Cougars went three minutes without scoring a point.
Howard held the lead for most of the first half until sophomore guard Jherrod Stiggers’ 3-pointer with 3:11 put UH ahead 30-28. Howard would never regain the lead.
The Cougars picked up their intensity after the break.
Second-half defense helped the Cougars extend their four-point lead at the break to double digits. The Bison completed 2-13 field goals to begin the second half and finished the game shooting 35 percent from the field.
“Coaches said we had to play defense and start the second half better than we started the game,” House said. “They told us we had to win the first five minutes of the half.”
Thomas made his presence felt inside the painted area despite scoring only 11 points. He swatted seven shots and changed many more, making Howard players think twice before driving into the lane. Thomas grabbed 18 boards, including seven on the offensive end.
“In practice for the last couple of weeks, we have been working on help side defense. So when a guy gets beat, (head) coach (James) Dickey has told me to go get the block,” Thomas said. “That’s all I’ve been working on in practice, and it carried over to the game.”
UH pushed its lead to 16 when House, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, connected with a mid-range jumper, but Howard wouldn’t go away — the Cougars couldn’t extend their advantage further.
With an upcoming trip to New York for a Monday contest against Stanford on their brain, Dickey said his players may have been looking ahead.
“(The slow start was) my fault for not having them better prepared and ready to go,” Dickey said. “You have to have an edge. What I told our guys all week is you have to have respect for everybody you play.”