Young Cougars hit a lull

Many young teams hit the proverbial wall at this time of the season, and it seems that is what might be happening to Houston now that the calendar has turned to February.

GETTING INSIDE

Houston has a very young team.

The Cougars have only one senior, and three of their four freshmen are part of coach James Dickey's regular rotation.

Many young teams hit the proverbial wall at this time of the season, and it seems that is what might be happening to Houston now that the calendar has turned to February.

Houston's two-game road trip to UAB and Tulane to begin the month was ugly. The Cougars lost 80-69 at UAB on Feb. 1 in a game in which they never threatened, then were hammered 75-54 at Tulane on Feb. 4.

Winning on the road is a challenge for many young teams, and that's been the case for Houston this season. The losses at UAB and Tulane dropped the Cougars to 0-6 on the road through Feb. 4. They were 10-4 at home and 1-1 on neutral courts.

The disastrous road trip also put Houston on the brink of falling into the Conference USA basement, as it left the Cougars one game out of last place. At 11-11 overall and 3-6 in C-USA, they were in a four-way tie for eighth with East Carolina, Texas-El Paso and Tulane through Feb. 5.

Houston returns home to face city rival Rice on Feb. 8 but then goes right back on the road three days later to face second-place Tulsa.

NOTES, QUOTES

Student-approved fee will raise money for athletic facilities

--Houston students voted overwhelming to add a service fee to their tuition that will help the university upgrade its athletic facilities, including Hofheinz Pavilion, as it prepares to join the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year.

The UH Student Government Association put a $45 per-student, per-semester fee to a student vote, and the referendum passed easily, as 73.9 percent of the 9.923 of those who cast votes were in favor. The fee is expected to raise $48 million, which will be added to the $60 million the university has already raised from private donations.

--When Houston joins the Big East, it will be the sixth conference in which the Cougars have played basketball. They played in the Lone Star Conference (1946-49), Gulf Coast Conference (1949-50), Missouri Valley Conference (1950-60) and Southwest Conference (1975-96).

Houston then joined Conference USA for the 1996-97 season following the dissolution of the Southwest Conference. The Cougars also played as independents from 1960-75.

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:

--vs. Rice, Feb. 8

KEY MATCHUPS: Rice junior F Arsalan Kazemi has been slowed by a knee injury in recent weeks but still led the team in scoring (12.8), rebounding (11.0) and blocked shots (2.0) through Feb. 4. He also was first in Conference USA in rebounding. Junior G Tamir Jackson had an 11.1 scoring average.

--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.

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."

PLAYER NOTES

--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.


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