Comeback Cougars: Men's Hoops Upends UCF

Jan. 24, 2007

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HOUSTON - Robert McKiver poured in a career-best 36 points as the University of Houston men's basketball team charged back from a 20-point halftime deficit to claim a 73-70 overtime win Wednesday night in a Conference USA game at Hofheinz Pavilion.

"You see these types of things every night in college or pro basketball," head coach Tom Penders said. "UCF played us as well as any team that we have played against in the first half this season. We just kept scratching and clawing. We finally got some shots to start falling for us in the second half, and we stopped them at critical times on defense."

It was the third time that McKiver surpassed the 30-point plateau this season as the Connecticut native drained six triples to fuel the comeback. McKiver shot 11-of-19 from the floor in addition to hitting 8-of-his-9 free throws. He also passed out four assists against one turnover in 43 minutes of action.

"We might have lost our focus (a week ago) at Rice, but we wanted to show that we're going to fight even when were down 20," McKiver said. "We wanted to win and show everyone that we still have fight in us. We were out of sync in the first half and things weren't going our way. That happens in basketball. We bounced back and got the win. That's all that matters in my mind."

Dion Dowell added 12 points for the victors, while Oliver Lafayette and Marcus Malone chipped in with nine points apiece. Each of Malone's triples came at critical times during the comeback.

The Cougars (8-9, 3-2 C-USA) fell behind 35-15 in the opening half, but Houston fought back to outscore the Golden Knights (14-5, 3-2 C-USA) 49-29 in the second stanza to force overtime.

Houston started its charge after being down 47-25 with 12:24 to go but used a 15-5 spurt to trim the deficit down to 52-40 on a Lafayette three-ball with 8:25 on the clock.

"I told the team if we can be within 10 points with six minutes left we were going to win it," Penders said. "I know what happened last week is in your mind. We went out and did what Rice did to us."

The Cougars turned up the defensive pressure and got within six points at 60-54 after McKiver forced a turnover in the backcourt and converted on a three-point play at the 4:02 mark.

Houston continued to climb the mountain as Malone provided a triple from the left baseline to bring the Cougars back to within one possession at 62-59 with 2:41 left to play.

A pair of Lavell Payne free throws gave UCF a 64-59 edge with 1:32 remaining, but Houston was not to be denied, using a pair of McKiver free throws to go along with another Malone triple with 43 seconds left to force overtime at 64-64.

Malone gave Houston the lead for good at 71-68 with another trifecta from the left baseline with 43 seconds to go, while Lafayette hit a pair of clutch free throws with six seconds on the clock to secure the 73-70 win.

"Coach Penders threatened me before I got back into the game," Malone said. "He said if I didn't make those shots or step up, I wasn't going to be playing the rest of the season. The pressure was on and the coaches believed in me. It was just a matter of me knocking down shots. My teammates did a great job of finding me so all I had to do was just knock down shots."

Payne paced three UCF players, notching a career-high 26 points, including a 13-for-17 effort from the charity stripe. Jermaine Taylor and Dave Noel added 12 and 11 for the visitors.

UCF opened the game with a 16-8 lead at the 7:16 mark of the opening half and scored 19 of the final 26 points of the half to build a 35-15 intermission advantage. Payne and Noel combined for 23 of the 35 Golden Knight first half points.

Houston hits the road and will take Marshall Saturday to open a three-game stretch in five days. Tip-off against the Thundering Herd is slated for 6pm at the Cam Henderson Center and can be heard on live on 790AM The Sports Animal. Tom Franklin and Carl Dukes will have the call courtside, starting 15 minutes prior to tip.



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