Photo courtesy UH
The Cougars, playing their first basketball game in over a week, got the 93-85 victory over the Troy Trojans to climb to 5-2 on the season. But despite the final score, this was not an easy victory for the Cougars.
Coleman finished as the game's leading scorer with 25 points, but don't be fooled by the box score. There was 12:47 left in the first half before Coleman even got his first point, and that was off a free throw. He spent much of the rest of the half on the bench due to some early foul trouble. But the Cougars are more than just Aubrey Coleman. And if nobody has recognized the stellar play of Coleman's fellow guard Kelvin Lewis before last night, then they've surely recognized his brilliance now.
While Coleman struggled in the first half, Lewis was going off from three-point range, hitting four of five shots from behind the arc as he pushed the Cougars to a hard-earned 43-37 lead. "I really wasn't worried too much about it," Coleman said. "I was focused on the D....they told me to keep shooting. There were a couple of times where I tried to pass it because I was little tired, but they me to just stay focused and keep shooting, so I kept shooting and knocked them down."
Lewis stayed hot in the second half, hitting three more from behind the line, but he was pushing so hard that coach Tom Penders had to rest him after he passed up a shot and confessed to being tired. But by then Coleman and the rest of the squad were heating up and ready to take some of the pressure off of Coleman.
"He kept us in the game when everybody else was struggling," Coleman said of Lewis's game. "He gave us confidence by hitting those key shots." And Coleman and his teammates repaid that confidence by coming through on his own when Lewis began to cool off.
"Aubrey's down, then somebody's going to pick him up," Penders said. "I know Aubrey was exhausted, and has not had much sleep the last few days, and did not practice on Saturday night or last night because he's been preparing for these exams. So he has not been getting much sleep."
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But Lewis wasn't the only Cougar to come through last night. Two freshmen, guard Nick Haywood and forward Kahmell Broughton, came off of the bench to provide some scoring touch, a tough inside presence, and some much-needed energy.
"To me the key to the whole ballgame was two players who haven't been used a lot [Haywood and Broughton]. Both were huge contributors. They turned the game around when we were struggling. Kahmell brought a lot of energy...and Nick Haywood was like Nick Haywood is every day. This year, it's going to be hard to find him a lot of minutes with the guards that I have. Maybe I need to get him in a little bit more."
The Cougars took off on a run early in the second half, and at times had the lead up to double digits, but every time it looked as if they were going to pull away and put the game out of reach, Troy would make a comeback, getting the score to 89-85 Houston with 37 seconds remaining in the game. But the Cougars were then able to win the battle at the line to make the final 93-85. And perhaps, more importantly, Coleman was able to get back to his studies.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
The Cougars were 16 of 27 from three-point range for the night for a 59.3 shooting percentage. That's the fifth-best three-point shooting percentage in school history, and their best since 2002....Fans might have noticed that Troy scored many shots from close range and on lay-ups. Penders called this a strategic decision, preferring to let Troy get the two points so that his guys would be in position for a quick shot at the other end or be in good position for a three-pointer....Saturday's game against Mississippi State will tip off at one o'clock.