Houston's offensive woes of late are a big reason why the Cougars (13-12, 5-6) have lost five of their last eight games. During that span, Houston is scoring nearly 11 points per game less than it did in the first 17 games of the season.
Senior guard Aubrey Coleman continues to lead the nation in scoring at more than 25 points per game. However, his supporting cast has come up short more often than not. Take Tuesday's loss at UCF, for example. Coleman hit for a game-high 22 points, but no other Cougar scored in double figures.
Senior guard Kelvin Lewis, junior guard Adam Brown and junior forward Maurice McNeil have been too inconsistent in their shooting and scoring. Coleman needs one of them or more to consistently help out for Houston to have a chance against the better teams in Conference USA.
One of those teams is UAB (19-5, 7-3), which could be vulnerable, having lost three of its last four going into this week, including an 81-74 loss to a Marshall team that had lost to Houston by 15 points on Jan. 30. The Blazers are tremendously well balanced with four players averaging better than 10 points, led by 6-6 junior Elijah Millsap.
UCF 68, HOUSTON 65: The Cougars (13-12, 5-6) went cold at the most inopportune time, going without a field goal in the last 3:29 as UCF (13-12, 5-6) held on for a hard-fought win in Orlando.
The game was close throughout with both teams holding multiple leads. Despite its offensive woes, Houston had a chance to send the game into overtime, but junior guard Adam Brown's three-point attempt missed at the buzzer.
Senior guard Aubrey Coleman was held more than three points below his average but still was the game's high scorer with 22 points. No other Cougar scored in double figures as Houston shot just 41.2 percent (21-of-51) from the floor.
The win helped UCF sweep the season series. The Golden Knights won 78-71 on Jan. 20 at Houston.
--Houston committed a season-low two turnovers against SMU on Feb. 13.
"I don't know how many teams are playing this late in the season and only making two turnovers in a game," Houston coach Tom Penders said. "We did a great job handling and protecting the basketball and that's something you have to do in these types of games."
--A Feb. 13 win over SMU was the ninth straight time the Cougars have knocked off the Mustangs.
The last time SMU beat Houston on the court was a 94-69 Mustangs win on Dec. 17, 2000.
ON THE SPOT: Junior guard Adam Brown was a consistent double-digit scorer earlier in the season before his minutes were sharply curtailed, and his scoring average dropped to 8.7 per game. He's working on a streak of 12 consecutive games without breaking into double figures.
With Houston's offense struggling of late, Brown, a 6-4, 175-pounder who scored 25 points in an early season loss at Nevada, needs to step up and give coach Tom Penders' club a consistent scoring option to complement senior guards Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis.
Brown missed a three-pointer at the buzzer in a 68-65 loss at UCF on Tuesday. However, he scored eight points in 21 minutes and looks as if he could be ready to break out again if he earns regular playing time.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't like 66-60 scores. I'd prefer that to be that halftime score. But the main thing is getting the win and we were successful at that." -- Houston coach Tom Penders after beating SMU on Feb. 13.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: A Feb. 13 win over SMU, Houston's second straight win, pulled the Cougars C-USA mark back to .500 at 5-5, but they fell back below .500 when they lost at Central Florida on Tuesday. The team flirted some with trying to expand its use of an inside game a few weeks ago but has clearly abandoned that and is again committed to being a 3-point shooting team.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Aubrey Coleman, PG Desmond Wade, G Kelvin Lewis, F Maurice McNeil, F Sean Coleman. Key Subs -- F Kendrick Washington, F Kirk Van Slyke, G Zamal Nixon, G Adam Brown.
Southern Miss 57, Houston 55
Houston 74, Western Kentucky 72
Houston 66, SMU 60
Central Florida 68, Houston 65
at UAB, Saturday, Feb. 20
vs. Memphis, Wednesday, Feb. 24
at SMU, Saturday, Feb. 27
vs. Rice, Wednesday, March 3
IN FOCUS: UAB, Houston's Feb. 20 opponent in Alabama, ranks 10th in C-USA in defending the 3-pointer, allowing teams to connect on 35.7 percent of their attempts. Considering Houston shoots the second most 3-pointers in league play (194 through Feb. 13), an upset is possible if the Cougars can get hot from deep.
--Despite getting only one steal against UCF in a 68-65 loss on Tuesday, senior guard Aubrey Coleman still leads the nation in steals, averaging 2.96 in 25 games.
--Senior guard Kelvin Lewis broke out of a shooting slump, tying a career high with seven three-pointers in a 66-60 victory over SMU on Feb. 13. Lewis, who had converted only nine of his last 36 three-point FG attempts in the previous six games, scored a season-high 29 points in the win.
--Freshman forward Kendrick Washington grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in a 66-60 win over SMU on Feb. 13.