Four games of Conference USA play didn't really answer a lot of Houston's questions.
Wins over Rice and East Carolina, two teams that remain winless in league play, didn't tell us a lot.
Those were expected. So too, many would say, was the Jan. 9 loss to league-title hopeful Tulsa.
But then there was the Jan. 13 win over UTEP. Following a players-only meeting, the Cougars beat up on a UTEP team that has C-USA title hopes of its own.
"They need to have their own meetings, take some ownership," Houston coach Tom Penders said in the Houston Chronicle. "When you do that, I think it makes you more accountable."
Just how far the Cougars have really come, and just how realistic their league title hopes are, could start to come to light this week.
Houston has a home game over a Central Florida team that has a winning record, and then a road game against perennial C-USA power Memphis, which enters the week with 64 consecutive conference victories.
"We put it in ourselves to take our own responsibility, whether it was hitting free throws late in games to close it out or making plays," guard Aubrey Coleman said in the Houston Chronicle, talking about the UTEP game. "That's what we hadn't done -- close out a game."
--Through Jan. 14, Houston committed fewer turnovers per game (9.1) than any team in the nation and led the nation in turnover margin (plus-9.4). The second closest team in turnover margin was Missouri at plus-7.2.
--While opponents have had a field day shooting on the Cougars this year (Houston allows a league-high 46.9 field goal percentage), East Carolina shot just 31.7 percent (19 of 60) from the field against Houston on Jan. 16.
ON THE SPOT: The Cougars rolled through two uncharacteristically dominating defensive efforts, but will have to continue the trend if anyone in the league is going to start being too concerned with the Cougars. After allowing Tulsa to shoot 67.5 percent from the floor on Jan. 9, the Cougars, the worst defensive field goal percentage team in C-USA, held UTEP and East Carolina to a combined 44 of 121 shooting (36.4 percent).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I haven't met a win I don't like." -- Houston coach Tom Penders, in the Daily Reflector, after his team's 74-55 win over East Carolina.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: The season has gone well for the Cougars, but many are reluctant to heap too much praise on a team that has shown to be all offense and no defense. But in recent games -- wins over UTEP and East Carolina -- Houston looked the part of a complete team and could start gaining respect with tough games ahead.
Tulsa 86, Houston 80
Houston 75, UTEP 65
Houston 74, East Carolina 55
vs. Central Florida, Wednesday, Jan. 20
at Memphis, Saturday, Jan. 23
vs. Marshall, Saturday, Jan. 30
at UTEP, Wednesday, Feb. 3
vs. Southern Miss, Saturday, Feb. 6
IN FOCUS: Something has to give when Houston plays at Memphis on Jan. 23. The Cougars lead C-USA in scoring with 83.4 points per game while the Tigers are holding opponents to a league-low 59.5 points per game. The difference is Memphis scores and defends, leading to a CUSA-best scoring margin (plus-16.4). Houston, meanwhile, is last in the league in scoring defense, allowing 76.5 points per game.
--Senior G Aubrey Coleman passed the 1,000-point career mark in Houston's 75-65 win over UTEP on Jan. 13. Coleman, the nation's leading scorer, had 22 points against the Miners. Coleman added a game-high 25 points on Jan. 16 against East Carolina, ending the week with 1,045 career points in two years at Houston.
--G Kelvin Lewis posted his first career double-double Jan. 13 against UTEP. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
--G Zamal Nixon, who averages just over 16 minutes per game, had 10 points, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 25 minutes against East Carolina on Jan. 16.