Jan. 19, 2008
Kelvin Lewis, Robert McKiver and Tafari Toney combined for 44 points to lead the University of Houston men's basketball team to a 77-72 victory over the UTEP Miners in a Conference USA game Saturday afternoon in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Lewis scored a career-high 17 points to lead the Cougars while Toney recorded the first double-double performance of his career with 13 points and career-best 14 rebounds for the Cougars.
"Tafari and Kelvin were playing extremely well," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "This is the fifth straight game in which (Tafari) has scored his average in points and rebounds."
McKiver added 14 points, while Lanny Smith chipped in with nine points and seven assists.
The game featured 15 lead changes and seven ties, as both teams fought back and forth through the first 26 minutes of the game before Houston took a 42-40 lead on a lay-up by McKiver. The Cougars extended their lead to four on their next possession when Lewis made one of his five three-point baskets in the game.
"We were tired from the trip to SMU and didn't practice Thursday," Penders added. "We had one day to practice and UTEP was sitting around for a week preparing for this game. I knew (UTEP head coach Tony Barbee) would have them ready. Their team has been playing extremely well and we respect the hell out of them. We knew this game would not be easy."
Even after Houston gained an 11-point lead with 9:50 remaining to play, the Miners fought back into contention.
Houston gained the lead after UTEP's Stephon Jackson and Houston's Marcus Malone each made a pair of free throws, McKiver made a three-point shot of his own and Lewis hit freshman forward Horace McGloster for a slam dunk to give the Cougars a 52-43 lead with 9:50 left to play.
UTEP fought back to within five points, 61-56, with 3:50 remaining in the game when Randy Culpepper hit his second three-point shot in the second half.
Lewis hit McGloster for another lay-up on Houston's next possession and after Marvin Kilgore missed a jump shot, Culpepper fouled McGloster. He made both free throws and Lanny Smith added to more to give the Cougars their biggest lead 67-56.
Houston had three straight turnovers during the next minute as UTEP pulled to within 67-63 with 54 seconds left.
That was as close as UTEP could get as Smith made four straight free throws, Lewis made two and McKiver added another to make the final score 77-72. "You have to knock down your free throws when you have leads," McKiver said. "This team is one of the better free-throw shooting teams that I have had. It's extremely important that when teams are trying to get back into the game, you step up and make them."
With the hard-fought victory, Houston improves its record to 13-3 overall this season and 2-0 in Conference USA play. The Cougars Rice in Reliant Arena next Wednesday night before returning home for two straight home games against Marshall on Jan. 26 and second-ranked Memphis on Jan. 30. All three upcoming games tip off at 7:00 p.m.