Win over Southern Miss lifts Cougars spirits

Houston upset Conference USA co-leader Southern Mississippi on Feb. 18. The Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak that bore resemblance to their seven-game skid at the end of last season.

GETTING INSIDE

Houston's season took a surprisingly happy detour on its way toward oblivion.

Houston upset Conference USA co-leader Southern Mississippi on Feb. 18. The Cougars snapped a four-game losing streak that bore resemblance to their seven-game skid at the end of last season.

"This builds up a lot of confidence," Houston freshman forward TaShawn Thomas said. "We've just got to go try to get these last few wins before we go to the (C-USA) tournament."

Houston was 12-13 overall and 4-8 in C-USA, where it was in ninth place, following its surprise victory.

Houston will try to build some momentum off the win as it visits Marshall (16-10, 7-5) on Feb. 22 then hosts Southern Methodist (11-16, 2-10) on Feb. 25.

NOTES, QUOTES

Frosh faces starting for Cougars

--Houston has started as many as three freshmen just four times in the program's history. Three of those games have been this year, including game a 73-71 upset of Conference USA co-leader Southern Mississippi on Feb. 18, in which F TaShwan Thomas, G J.J. Thompson and G Joseph Young were in the lineup.

That trio also started in losses against Memphis on Jan. 14 and at Tulsa on Feb. 11.

The only other time Houston started three freshmen in a loss to Central Florida during the 2005-06 season when Corey Bloom, Lamar Roberson and Emmanuel Adeife were in the lineup. Freshmen became eligible to play at the start of the 1972-73 season.

--Three players have been declared out for the season due to injury: freshman G Jherrod Stiggers (knee), freshman G Leron Barnes (groin) and sophomore F Mikhail McLean (knee).

Barnes and McLean each played in five games while Stiggers saw no action this season. Barnes averaged 2.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 13.2 minutes a game and McLean had averages of 2.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 13.0 minutes.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5. Consecutive games in which Houston had more turnovers than its opponents through Feb. 18.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We told our guys, 'They're going to punch you in the mouth.' But our guys responded. They competed. They battled," -- Houston coach James Dickey after an 73-71 upset of Conference USA co-leader Southern Mississippi on Feb. 18.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at Marshall, Feb. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: Marshall is led by the backcourt of sophomore G DeAndre Kane (15.8 points a game) and senior G Damier Pitts (14.3 ppg).

--vs. Southern Methodist, Feb. 25

KEY MATCHUPS: Senior F Robert Nyakundi leads SMU with a 14.8 scoring average and junior G London Giles is scoring 10.7 points a game. Houston lost at SMU 70-54 on Jan. 18 as Giles scored 16 points to lead the Mustangs. Nyakundi added 15 points for SMU, sophomore F Shawn Williams and freshman G Jalen Jones had 11 points each. Houston got 11 points apiece from freshman G Joseph Young and junior F Kirk Van Slyke.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore Alandise Harris is certainly one of Houston's building blocks moving forward. Through games of Feb. 18, he was averaging 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior G Jonathon Simmons scored a career-high 28 points in a 73-71 victory over Southern Mississippi on Feb. 18, marking the 13th time he had led Houston in scoring in 25 games this season. It was also Simmons' seventh 20-point game. Simmons had scored in double figures in seven straight games, averaging 17.3 points to lift his season average to a team-high 14.3 in his first season as a junior college transfer.

--Freshman F TaShawn Thomas had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Southern Miss for his seventh double-double of the season. It also marked his ninth double-digit rebounding game as he had led Houston in that category in 13 of 25 games this season.

--Freshman G Joseph Young had scored in double figures in five games in a row through Feb. 18 after doing so only once in his previous five games. Young averaged 12.8 points during his hot streak.


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