The game was close for most of the first half, but the Cougars went on a spurt at the end to take the 50-37 halftime lead. The Cougars continued that spurt in the second half, at one time leading 72-47. But ECU made a comeback attempt, getting to within 89-80 with 2:06 remaining in the game before the men put it away.
Five Cougars reached double digits, led by Aubrey Coleman, the nation's leading scorer, who finished with 29 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Kelvin Lewis finished with 15 points. Desmond Wade chipped in with 13 points and a game-high seven assists, while Sean Coleman finished with 11 points. Maurice McNeil, just returned to the team after dealing with a family emergency, also had 11 points, and he had a game-high eight rebounds.
But not all was rosy, as once again, the Cougars failed to string together a complete game, and found themselves once again struggling at the end of the game. Luckily, the lead was so large that they were able to hold off the ECU challenge, but that's not something they count on the rest of the weekend, especially in today's game against Memphis, which is set to tip-off at noon.
I wasn't able to travel to Tulsa for the tournament, but luckily, Hair Balls picked up a special correspondent, the voice of the Cougars, Tom Franklin, and he agreed to provide us with some comments based on what he observed.
"There was a balanced attack -- five men in double figures," he told us. "Aubrey [Coleman] didn't dominate the ball, and that allowed other guys to become involved in the offense. If Aubrey will continue to trust his teammates, and they can make plays when he does trust them, UH could be very tough to beat."
Franklin notes that Wade's game was exceptional. Along with the assists, he was perfect from the floor in shooting, and he was shooting with confidence. And McNeil's return provided the team with some much needed energy.
Today is a tough game for the Cougars. They were defeated by Memphis earlier in the year, but blew the Tigers out at Hofheinz Pavilion several weeks ago. Memphis presents a tough inside game for the Cougars, and the Cougars tend to have problems against teams with tough inside games.
"Interior defense must improve if they are to beat Memphis," Franklin says.
It's my opinion that the key to the interior defense is going to be Kendrick Washington. Washington was a key force in the Coogs dominating win over Memphis earlier. He was able to make use of big body and push the Memphis big guys around.
But he is a freshman, and head coach Tom Penders, the staff, and the other players have to make sure that Washington stays in control.
But as Franklin said, if Aubrey Coleman doesn't continue trusting his teammates and dishing the ball, nothing that Washington does, or the rest of the big guys do, will matter. And hopefully we'll have some more observations from our on-sight, special correspondent tomorrow.
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