The question mark for the Houston Cougars basketball team coming into this season was the defense. Head coach Tom Penders noted that when interviewed during practice before the season, and he reiterated it after the first game against Nicholls State.
And it's something he reiterated after his team had to come back from a 41-23 deficit to defeat Oklahoma 100-93 on Thanksgiving Night in their first game of the Great Alaska Shootout.
"Our offense is way ahead of our defense at this point," Penders told a Fox Sports Channel announcing crew after that game. "That's usually what this time of year is all about."
The team's offense is a wonder, and any combination that Penders throws out on the floor is capable of going off on a 10-0, 15-0 run at anytime of any game. That's a key for the Cougars as it's these runs that allow them to overcome their defensive tendencies.
The Coogs can go on these runs because, defensively, they're a quick team capable of stealing the ball and getting out on a fast break. If they can't get the steal and can't get off on the fast break, then they're in trouble.
That's what happened on Friday night as the Cougars, who the night before had defeated the country's 25th-ranked program, were themselves defeated by San Diego, 72-65.
San Diego was able to prevent UH from going off on many runs, and they were able to withstand a final Cougar run of 15-4 that got the score down to 64-61 San Diego with 2:50 remaining in the game.
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But San Diego was able to take advantage of its skills shooting the ball and on the free-throw line and held off the Cougars. San Diego shot 57.9 percent from the floor and went 25 of 30 from the free-throw line.
Aubrey Coleman continues to be UH's key player, and he led the Cougars to third place in the tournament as they defeated the host team, Alaska Anchorage, by the score of 73-57. The Cougars never trailed in this game, a first for this year. Coleman played all 40 minutes of the game and finished with 25 points and seven rebounds.
The win left the Cougars at 3-2 for the season as they return to Houston where they will play the rest of their games for this month. They take on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday afternoon, but the big game of the month will be on December 19 when they face a Mississippi State squad that should be one of the better teams in the SEC and the nation. And hopefully, by that time, the Cougars defense will have caught up with the offense.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS COUGAR NOTES: The Cougars' 100-93 victory against Oklahoma was just the team's second win against a top-25 ranked opponent outside of Hofheinz Pavilion since the 1986-1987 season....The Cougars opened the season with three straight games of 90-plus points for the first time since the 1976-1977 season....The win was their 17th-straight win when scoring 100-plus points, and their all-time record when scoring 100-plus points in a game is 168-4. The 100 points scored against Oklahoma was only the fourth time in school history that the Cougars got a triple-digit score against a ranked team, and it was the first time since 1983 when they did it against LSU....Tom Penders has moved into sole possession of 19th place in NCAA Division One history by coaching in 1,056 games. He also moved into sole possession of 28th place in Division One history with his 631st victory on Thursday night. The team's next win will move him into a tie for 27th on the list....And Aubrey Coleman was named the C-USA player of the week.