The Houston Cougar men's basketball team found just the way to go into the Christmas break, with a 105-81 win over the TCU Horned Frogs that was close for the first half of the first half, but then saw the Cougars move into pull-away mode. Kelvin Lewis was hot in the first half, Aubrey Coleman took off in the second, and the Cougars improved their record to 7-3 on the season with just one game left this month.
"We came out with intensity," Kelvin Lewis said. "We tried to make it 40 minutes of pressure and put it on them the whole game. I think we accomplished that."
Coleman finished with a game-high 33 points on 11-18 shooting and Lewis finished with 25 points (20 in the first half) -- including six of 12 from three-point range. Adam Brown, once again coming off of the bench, finished the game with 21 points as he settles into a sixth-man role that he has admitted to being very fond of.
But with only three games left until conference play starts, the Cougars are still a team in transition, still trying to find an identity. Head coach Tom Penders has slowly been adding elements of trapping and pressing defenses to the game as the younger players become better acquainted with playing defense at the college level.
There are some things the fans can expect as conference play begins next week. Kendrick Washington should continue seeing playing time, and playing time that will be increasing as he continues recovering from off-season leg problems that kept him from practicing or working out with the team. The fans should also expect to continue seeing Adam Brown coming off of the bench. Penders admits that he likes Brown coming off of the bench, because Brown seems to work better that way, and Brown agrees it gives him a better feel for the game.
And expect the key to winning to continue being a lack of turnovers while on offense, while continuing to press turnovers on defense.
"We lead the country in fewest turnovers, and last year we were number two. I think Notre Dame beat us by a tenth of a turnover," Penders said. "We don't turn it over. If you see any dead bodies lying around Hofheinz, those are guys who are turning it over. We do a good job of taking care of the ball."
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There are some players who might have to be doing some adjusting, as well. And not to playing a pressing defense. Though no names were given, Penders made it clear last Monday night that there are some guys who were getting playing time earlier in the season who will not be getting much playing time, if any, until their grades improve.
"Some coaches blow that off [academics]," Penders said after the game with The Citadel. "Some guys didn't play tonight who didn't do as well as they should have done. It's a momentary punishment deal. I have certain expectations with kids. When kids have the ability academically, I expect a certain performance level. I don't accept just satisfactory, or just passing, or just getting by. It's kind of a wake-up call. But I've done that my whole career."
"I was Einstein in high school," Penders said later, when returning to the topic. "Then I went to UConn and played basketball and baseball, and I barely had a 2.0 my first year. So I know. It's tough...it's hard. It's very difficult. It's very difficult. At the University of Houston, we don't have programs that just pass athletes through. All you have to do is look in the media guides and see what the kids are majoring in (six sociology, three Health Education, one psychology, one Kinesiology, and four undeclared). I've been at schools, some highly reputable schools, where they have had that. We don't have that here. So kids have to toe the line. And sometimes they have to get shocked into it. And that's a fact."
SOME MISCELLANEOUS BASKETBALL NOTES:
Wednesday's victory over TCU was Houston's second 100-point game of the season, and it was the team's first at Hofheinz. It was also their first 100-point game against TCU since April of 1977....This was also Aubrey Coleman's third 30-plus point game of the season, and the sixth of his career. It was also the fifth 20-plus point game for Kelvin Lewis this season, and it was the 20th time in his career that he's done this....The Cougars return to game action tomorrow night when they host Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m.