Road worriers? Cougars blasted by UTEP in away tilt
Just when Houston was finding its footing, it took a major step backward in its first Conference USA road game.
Houston opened conference play with a 70-69 overtime win over Tulsa at home. That stretched the Cougars' winning streak to five games, though all five victories came in the friendly confines of the Hofheinz Pavillon.
In its first road test, Houston got spanked by Texas-El Paso 70-50.
Houston (9-6) let the game get away in the second half as it was within one point of UTEP, 38-37, with 16:43 left. However, the Miners went on a 19-5 run to open a 56-42 lead and the Cougars were done.
Houston was playing just its second true road game as it also lost at Texas State 81-78 on Dec. 6.
The Cougars are on the road again Jan. 11 when they visit Central Florida. The Cougars then host Memphis on Jan. 14.
Simmons settled in at stripe, sealed win over Tulsa
--Junior guard Jonathon Simmons made the most of his second chance when Houston opened Conference USA play with a 70-69 victory over Tulsa in overtime on Jan. 4.
Simmons was fouled with one second left in regulation and Houston trailing 65-64. Simmons, who had made his first eight free throw attempts, connected on the first foul shot but missed the second, forcing overtime.
Simmons was then fouled as he was driving to the hoop in overtime with 0.7 left and the scored tied 69-69. He knocked down the first free throw for the game-winner then intentionally missed the second to keep Tulsa, which was out of timeouts, from setting up for a final shot.
"I had been making them all day," Simmons said. ""I was thinking it was going to go in, and it kind of bit me, but I'm glad I got another chance."
--Houston lost its first five games decided by five points or less this season. It was won three straight since Dec. 20 after edging Tulsa.
"All the situations we've been in we already know how to handle close game," Houston freshman point guard J.J. Thompson said. "We just have to get stops at the end."
--Houston is averaging 15.0 turnovers a game and miscues were a problem in the first two Conference USA games.
Houston had 21 turnovers in the win over Tulsa with Simmons committing nine and Thompson five. The Cougars had 16 more turnovers in a 70-50 loss at Texas-El Paso on Jan. 7 as normally reliable senior guard Darian Thibodeaux had a team-worst five.
"There is a fine line between reining them in and not letting them play," Houston coach James Dickey said. "We have to use better judgment when we get between the elbow and the 3-hole. That is when we make bad decisions. You have to give the players freedom. Once they have better judgment and are able to make smarter decisions it becomes a threat.
"We want to give Jonathon and J.J. that freedom to be able to make their own decisions. What we will do is advise them and educate them but also not take away their freedom to make plays."
BY THE NUMBERS: 8-3. Houston's home record this season. However, the Cougars are 0-2 on the road and 1-1 on neutral courts.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wanted that chance and he looked me off a little bit He then asked the other coaches and they said give it to me. I got the ball and made the play." -- Simmons about a skeptical Dickey needing to be convinced to give him a chance to make the game-winning shot against Tulsa.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Central Florida, Jan. 11
KEY MATCHUPS: Houston defeated Central Florida 76-71 at home last season. lost at Houston 76-71 last season. Houston's Kirk Van Slyke scored 17 points before fouling out and Alanside Harris added 14 points. UCF's Keith Clanton scored 13 points and Marcus Jordan and A.J. Rompza added 10 each. UCF held a 37-26 rebounding edge but Houston held the Knights to 39-percent shooting and forced them into 16 turnovers.
--vs. Memphis, Jan. 14
KEY MATCHUPS: Houston lost at Memphis 69-58 last season. Harris had 16 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots for Houston while Memphis' Tarrik Black had 16 points and three blocked shots, Charles Carmouche had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists and Antonio Barton scored 10 points.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman Joseph Young has been very productive in his first collegiate season, averaging 11.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 28.7 minutes. Young's father is Houston All-America Michael Young, the Cougars' director of basketball operations.
--Sophomore G Joseph Young has turned things around since failing to score in 23 minutes in a win over Texas-San Antonio on Dec. 20. Since then, he has averaged 16.4 points in five games and scored at least 22 points twice.
--Freshman F TaShawn Thomas has been a steady contributor. He has scored at least six points in all 15 games this season and been in double figures eight times while averaging 10.5 points.