The Tulsa Golden Hurricane hopes the recent generosity of the Cougars continues at least through Feb. 5.
Houston not only lost its fourth straight game on Feb. 1 to Marshall, it was the fourth straight game the Cougars handed a lead away in the closing moments of the game.
In fact, the Marshall loss included Houston holding a lead until 11 seconds left in the game adding to the frustrations surrounding the program.
Coach James Dickey told the Houston Chronicle before the Marshall loss that losing to a better team is one thing, "but when you help somebody, that causes you to lose sleep."
He likely won't be getting much shuteye until the losing streak is over.
On Jan. 22, the Cougars led UTEP with 3:04 remaining in the game before losing, 57-52.
On Jan. 26, the Cougars led cross-town rival Rice by four with 2:25 remaining only to lose, 79-71, in overtime.
On Jan. 29, the Cougars led by 13 points midway through the second half and were still up by nine with 4:04 remaining in the game only to lose to East Carolina, 74-70.
"You don't sleep much when you play like we're playing," Dickey told the Chronicle.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: After missing a game because of injury on Jan. 15 and not being allowed to start in four of five games between Dec. 30 and Jan. 22, senior forward Maurice McNeil started for the third consecutive game on Feb. 1. Despite his stats being clearly good enough to be a starter -- he was averaging 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game hrough the Marshall game -- the fact is the Cougars have lost the last four games in which McNeil started. In the Feb. 1 Marshall loss, McNeil had 16 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots. In a Jan. 29 loss to East Carolina, he had 18 points and 13 rebounds. So while the stats make it hard to imagine not starting him, college basketball is a results-driven sport and coach James Dickey might be starting the question whether returning McNeil to the starting rotation was the right call.
--Four the fourth consecutive game, the Cougars let a late second-half lead slip away in a 63-62 loss to Marshall on Feb. 1. The team once again committed the mistakes in the closing moments that simply won't allow them to win a close league game. The Cougars missed 10 free throws in the second half, going 13-of-23, and committed eight of their 13 turnovers after halftime, including one with four seconds remaining by senior G Adam Brown that sealed the loss.
--Senior PG Zamal Nixon dished out seven assists in a Feb. 1 loss to Marshall. While he was averaging 4.9 assists per game on the season after the game, he hadn't had more than four assists in a game since the Jan. 5 C-USA opener against Southern Mississippi. He had eight in that game.
--Freshman F Alandise Harris made a career-high 12 free throws and attempted a career-high 20 in a Feb. 1 loss to Marshall. The 20 free throw attempts were the second-most by a C-USA player this season. The 12 made free throws helped Harris atone for a 2-of-8 shooting performance from the field. He had 16 points in the game.
--Houston led late in each of three losses between Jan. 22 and Jan. 29.
On Jan. 22, the Cougars led UTEP with just 3:04 remaining in the game before losing 57-52. On Jan. 26, the Cougars led cross-town rival Rice by four with 2:25 remaining, only to lose 79-71 in overtime. On Jan. 29, the Cougars led by 13 midway through the second half and were still up by nine with 4:04 remaining in the game, only to lose to East Carolina 74-70.
--A Jan. 29 loss to East Carolina gave the Cougars a three-game losing streak just a week after they had been playing for a share for the C-USA lead.
It was the first three-game skid for Houston since losing three consecutive games from Dec. 29, 2009, through Jan. 3, 2010, to close out last year's non-conference portion of the schedule. The last three-game losing streak in C-USA regular season play came when the Cougars lost to Tulane, DePaul and Southern Miss on Feb. 11, 14 and 18, 2004.
--Houston allowed East Carolina to shoot just 4-for-24 from 3-point range but still lost 74-70 on Jan. 29. With that showing, the Cougars improved their season 3-point defensive field-goal percentage to 28.7 percent, second best in C-USA.
BY THE NUMBERS: 65.2 percent -- Through Jan. 29, the Cougars' success rate at the free-throw line was the lowest mark in C-USA. But in league games, the Cougars ranked fourth, shooting 72.1 percent from the line.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've got to do a better job coaching." -- Coach James Dickey, after a Jan. 29 loss at East Carolina, Houston's third consecutive defeat.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--at Tulsa, Feb. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: When the Cougars beat Tulsa on Jan. 19, they did so with three Golden Hurricane players -- G Justin Hurtt, C Steven Idlet and G/F Bryson Pope -- combining for 47 of the team's 57 points. If the Cougars can shut everyone else down again, by all means, that's the route to go. But Hurtt, the conference's leading scorer through Jan. 30, is capable any night of putting up 30-plus points, so Houston may want to spend a little more time denying him the ball.
FUTURES MARKET: It appears coach James Dickey's head-scratching experiment of having F Maurice McNeil, arguably the team's top player, come off the bench might be over. McNeil was in the Dickey doghouse and didn't start five straight games, but on Jan. 29, was he back in the starting lineup replacing F Kirk Van Slyke, who did not play. The team chemistry seemed off. While McNeil scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 34 minutes of playing time, Houston still lost its third straight game. The constant shifting of starting lineups probably will have to settle down in February if Houston doesn't want to keep sliding down the standings.
--Senior F Maurice McNeil had 18 points and 13 rebounds in a Jan. 29 loss to East Carolina, the first game he started since the C-USA opening loss to Southern Miss on Jan. 5.
--Senior PG Zamal Nixon had three turnovers and two assists in a Jan. 29 loss to East Carolina. It was the first time since a Dec. 4 win over Sam Houston State that Nixon had more turnovers than assists. He had three turnovers and just one assist in that game.