With the way the Houston Cougars have struggled lately, it may not matter what type of defense is getting thrown at them.
But in a 79-71 loss to rival Rice on Feb. 8, the Cougars seemed to think it was the Owls' late game change to a zone defense that sealed the deal in the Cougars' third-consecutive loss in the series.
"We were expecting it," freshman guard Joseph Young said of the zone. "We studied and practiced against it, but they just played it very well, and we did not step up."
If it is indeed the zone that was the reason Rice was able to close out Houston on Feb. 8, the Cougars may find some solace in knowing their Feb. 11 opponent Tulsa is coached by Doug Wojcik, a coach who stubbornly sticks with a man-to-man defense.
Of course that defense of Tulsa's has worked to the tune of allowing a Conference USA low 59.9 points per league game this season (four teams are bunched together within 59.9 and 60.8 points allowed in league games). So then again, the Cougars may not be catching much of a break after all on Feb. 11.
For a growingly frustrated Houston head coach James Dickey, the defense thrown at his team isn't the problem.
"We have to shoot the ball better," Dickey said after the Rice loss. "It is not about shooting; it is about making."
Young more comfortable coming off the bench
--Freshman G Joseph Young has scored 13 points off the bench in a Feb. 8 loss to Rice, the third-consecutive game the young scorer has had a double-figure scoring game and the fourth time in the past six games. Young started the first eight games of the season and one more after that and had four double-digit scoring performances in those nine starts. In the 14 games Young has come off the bench, he's scored 10 or more points nine times. He is averaging 10.6 points per game.
--Junior G Jonathon Simmons scored a team-high 16 points and had 10 rebounds for his first career double-double on Feb. 8 in a loss to cross-town rival Rice. On the season, Simmons is leading the Cougars in scoring with 14.8 points per game and averaged 4.8 rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Consecutive double-doubles for freshman F TaShawn Thomas from Jan. 25-Feb. 1. He became the first Houston player to have three in a row since Aubrey Coleman in 2008-09.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really looked at it like I had nothing to lose. If I didn't make it, I'm still in school and will still get my degree." -- Sophomore G Jimmy Jones, on making the team as a walk-on after a tryout in October.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Tulsa, Feb. 11
KEY MATCHUPS: Sophomore G Jordan Clarkson led Tulsa in scoring with an average of 15.9 points a game through Feb. 4, and junior G Scottie Haralson was second at 11.1. Houston beat Tulsa 70-69 at home Jan. 4 as junior G Jonathon Simmons had 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Freshman G J.J. Thompson added 15 points for the Cougars. Freshman F TaShawn Thomas had 12, and sophomore F Alandise Harris finished with 10. Senior F Steven Idlet led Tulsa with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. Freshman G Eric McClellan added 14 points, Clarkson had 12 points and six steals, and senior F D.J. Magley finished with 12 points. The teams combined for 37 turnovers, 21 by Houston.
ON THE SPOT: Houston ran out former coach Tom Penders after a 7-9 C-USA record in the 2009-10 season despite his team catching fire late with four wins in four days at the C-USA tournament and making it to the NCAA Tournament. Current head coach James Dickey's Cougars have just seven wins in 27 C-USA games (26 regular season games and one C-USA tournament loss in 2011). A complete overhaul of philosophy afforded Dickey quite a bit of leeway, but in year two, many around the Houston program are getting antsy with a four-game league losing streak in January and a current three-game losing streak in league games heading into a Feb. 11 game against Tulsa. The seat under Dickey is heating up in just his second season.
FUTURES MARKET: F Danuel House was one of two Houston recruits in the early signing period. The 6-foot-7 House is from Hightower High School in Sugar Land, Texas. "He is an explosive perimeter player that is a high flier," Houston coach James Dickey said. "He can shoot the ball and is very competitive. Danuel plays hard on both ends of the floor and is a special talent."
--Freshman G J.J. Thompson set a career high with six assists in a 75-54 loss at Tulane on Feb. 4. After early problems hanging on to the ball, Thompson had 58 assists and 43 turnovers through Feb. 4, a 1.2 ratio.
--Freshman F TaShawn Thomas responded to being held to a season-low two points in a loss at Southern Methodist on Jan. 18 by averaging 15.0 points in his next four games through Feb. 4. That brought his season scoring average up to 10.9.
--Junior G Jonathon Simmons, who ran off five 20-point games in a row in December, has started to regain his scoring touch. He had averaged 17.8 points in his last four games through Feb. 4 to up his season average to 14.8.