As the season winds down, it doesn't appear there will be anyone close to the Houston Cougars in the running for C-USA's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde award. There isn't a more up and down team in the league.
After a two-game road losing streak on Feb. 16 and 20 had many in the league thinking the white flag was being waived by the Cougars, Houston answers by beating Memphis by 15 points on Feb. 24. It was Houston's first win over the Tigers in 12 tries.
"I told our players,'If you're willing to fight, you can beat anybody,'" Houston coach Tom Penders told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't care how talented you are; if you're not willing to fight, you can't beat anybody."
Apparently that willingness to fight only lasted through the first 20 minutes of action of the team's Feb. 27 game at SMU, where the Cougars enjoyed a 39-33 halftime lead.
Then, the bad Cougars returned.
Against an SMU team that hadn't scored more than 73 points in a C-USA game this season, the Cougars allow 61 second-half points in a 94-83 loss to fall back down to 6-8 in league play at the time and 14-14 overall.
Houston has wins over league powers UTEP and Memphis this year and also four losses to league teams at or below .500 as of Feb. 27.
--Houston's Feb. 24 win over Memphis snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Tigers.
--Houston surrendered 61 points and 66.7 percent shooting in the second half of a Feb. 27 loss to SMU, the first time the Mustangs beat the Cougars in a C-USA game.
ON THE SPOT: The inconsistency of the Cougars' defense is baffling. On Feb. 24, the team held Memphis G Elliot Williams to a season-low four points. Houston won the game. Three days later, one of the league's most pedestrian offenses put up 61 second half points and SMU's Papa Dia scored a career-high 31 points in a Cougars loss.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's just all about clicking at the right time." -- Houston G Kelvin Lewis to the Houston Chronicle.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Although it was a long shot anyway, the Cougars entered the final week of the regular season with no shot of sneaking into one of the league's top four seeds for the C-USA Tournament, which brings with it a first-round bye. Houston has proven it can beat the best, or lose to the worst on any given night in league play.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- G Aubrey Coleman, PG Desmond Wade, G Kelvin Lewis, F Maurice McNeil, F Kendrick Washington. Key Subs -- F Sean Coleman, F Kirk Van Slyke, G Zamal Nixon, G Adam Brown.
UAB 75, Houston 66
Houston 92, Memphis 75
SMU 94, Houston 83
vs. Rice, Wednesday, March 3
at Tulane, Saturday, March 6
C-USA Tournament, March 10-13
IN FOCUS: Houston's regular-season finale at Tulane on March 6 is one of those games that probably shouldn't scare Cougars fans, but does. Houston plays down to its competition with the best of them and Tulane (2-12 in C-USA play as of Feb. 27) is a team that doesn't get caught up in firing up 3-pointers like the Cougars like to do. If Tulane can control the tempo, Houston may be in for a fight.
--Senior G Aubrey Coleman's 30 points against SMU on Feb. 27 moved him into 17th place all-time at Houston with 1,344 points. Ahead of him on the school's scoring list was Charles Thompson, who scored 1,381 points from 1974-78.
--F Kendrick Washington scored a career-high 16 points in the Feb. 24 win over Memphis.