Coogs' season ends vs. Maryland in NCAAs

While Houston played its way into its first NCAA Tournament since 1992, the season was hardly deemed a success until the C-USA tournament championship game victory.

GETTING INSIDE
While Houston played its way into its first NCAA Tournament since 1992, the season was hardly deemed a success until the C-USA tournament championship game victory.

Entering the year, head coach Tom Penders suggested this would be a special season.

The team never won more than three games in a row in the regular season, hovering around or below .500 most of the season and had the rumor mill churning out plenty of suggestions that the school would part ways with the veteran coach.

But getting hot at the right time as the Cougars did in the C-USA tournament is what teams strive for and the March 13 victory of UTEP that sent the Cougars dancing likely saved Penders job.

The fact that the season was nearly squandered despite boasting the nation's leading scorer in senior guard Aubrey Coleman would have been a shame for the Cougars.

In the end, however, it's hard not to view a team's first trip to the Big Dance in nearly two decades anything but a success.

NOTES, QUOTES

FINAL RECORD: 19-16, 7-9, tied for seventh in Conference USA.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Cougars, like every team tries to do, got hot at the right time.

Despite finishing the year with a losing record in C-USA play, Houston rolled through the league's postseason tournament and beat UTEP in the title game for an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Senior guard Aubrey Taylor was amazing on both ends of the court, but leading the nation in scoring at more than 26 points per game was something special for the program.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The team's general disregard for rebounding and light emphasis on defense, despite averaging 9.8 steals per game, lead to far more losses than anticipated.

The team had talent, but never won more than three games in a row in the regular season because of inconsistency on defense.

Houston allowed a C-USA worst 46.0 percent shooting from opponents and the 74.6 points allowed per game entering the NCAA Tournament was second worst in the 12-team league.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know who I am. I would rather lose 50 games in a row than break a rule and get put on probation. I just won't do it. I never have." -- Houston head coach Tom Penders.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THE GOOD NEWS: There were five freshmen and sophomore on this year's Houston squad that qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

At the forefront of that group was the late season emergence of freshman Kendrick Washington, a 6-7, 270-pound forward. Teamed with 6-9, 215-pound junior Maurice McNeil, the Cougars, a usually guard-heavy team, will have an unusually-talented frontcourt for head coach tom Penders to build around for the 2010-11 season.

The next two guards on the team's scoring ledger for the season after seniors Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis were Adam Brown and Desmond Wade. Both got good experience this season and both showed glimpses of being solid starters next year.

THE BAD NEWS: Senior guards Aubrey Coleman, who led the nation in scoring, and Kelvin Lewis are leaving the program after averaging more than 40 points per game.

Despite having a roster loaded with similarly athletic wings, the Cougars simply won't be able to replace scoring, let alone leadership, like those two players offered.

Coleman's scoring isn't the only thing that will be missed when he departs. He led C-USA in minutes played and his 2.7 steals per game was also tops in the 12-team league. He was also in the top 15 in the league in rebounding, field goal percentage and 3-pointers made.

KEY RETURNEES: Junior forward Maurice McNeil is a very capable post player. He led C-USA in offensive rebounds (3.4 per game) and was in the top 10 in the league in blocked shots and total rebounds.

He and freshman Kendrick Washington, who ended up starting 14 games this season and began coming on strong toward the end of the regular season, make a formidable frontcourt for the future.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Senior G Aubrey Coleman was one of the best statistical players to ever come through the history-rich Houston program. He led the nation in scoring and his 2.7 steals per game was tops in Conference USA.

--Head coach Tom Penders finished the season with 648 career coaching victories, which ranks 25th all time for Division I coaching victories.


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