Consistency needed for return to glory
For the past 30 seasons, UH basketball supporters have been itching for the Cougars to return to national prominence. Though they have gotten closer to their NCAA goals each of the past three seasons, the fans are starting to get restless.
It has been 30 years since UH defeated Virginia in the 1984 Final Four — the Cougars’ last NCAA tournament victory. The Cougars hope to return to being the program that was a perennial title contender, but former coach Guy V. Lewis, who was honored with the Hall of Fame this season, isn’t walking through the door again. Neither are the legendary players that Lewis coached.
It seems as if all the pieces are in place for the Cougars next season, but the same was said before this season. After some success this season, excuses should no longer be valid. They have the experience and will be led by veterans.
However, the expectations have changed since Lewis patrolled the sidelines. After defeating Memphis, UH had a goal of reaching an even record in conference play.
“We’ve been talking about that since we went on our drought,” said junior forward TaShawn Thomas. “The coaches just said that we’ve got to win out and keep hope alive.”
After upsetting SMU in the second round of the conference tournament, UH lost to heavily favored Louisville in the semifinals, where the Cardinals’ Russ Smith’s career night left the Cougars without a win or trip to the Big Dance.
In terms of national recognition, this season was a success. UH (17-16, 8-10) defeated three ranked teams in Connecticut, Memphis and SMU, but struggled against talented teams on the road.
“The guys know that we have been inconsistent, and they know what we have been harping on,” said head coach James Dickey.
Among the leaders is Thomas, who set milestones this season while averaging 15.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 2.7 bpg, shooting 59 percent from the field.
The team’s offense was sparked by the sophomores who gained much needed experience. Guard Danuel House contributed 13.6 ppg and guard Jherrod Stiggers averaged 11.2 ppg and made a team high of 80 three pointers. L.J. Rose also stepped up for the Cougars at point guard down the stretch of the season, leading the AAC in assists per game with 5.5, while averaging 8.9 ppg.
Freshman Danrad “Chicken” Knowles was a solid contribution and has a bright future at UH coming in averaging 7.1 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.
This team doesn’t have many offensive woes because of their willingness to make the extra pass and ability to turn a good shot into a better shot. The Cougars ranked 52nd in the nation in assist per game, with 14.7 and believed in quick ball movement on offense.
The offensive was more efficiently when they played inside out. Getting points in the paint at times was a strong suit for UH but should be more emphasized for next season. Thomas didn’t get the touches he needed down low in some games to produce for the Cougars, but sometimes he played too passive.
The Cougars’ main flaws are allowing points off second chance points and turnovers committing 13 per game. They also need to improve capping off good defensive possessions with the rebound. They outrebounded SMU and Louisville in the tournament.