Jan. 31, 2007
HOUSTON - Junior guard Robert McKiver scored 21 points to headline four players in double-figures as the University of Houston men's basketball team defeated cross-town rival Rice University, 70-63, for its fifth straight win Wednesday night in front of a season-best 6,115 fans at Hofheinz Pavilion.
"It was a great performance by our kids from start to finish," head coach Tom Penders said. "They (Rice) made a run, and we didn't crack. We answered them at critical situations. I thought throughout the game we did an excellent job defensively, particularly Marcus Malone on Morris Almond. I know if you look at the score sheet he (Almond) still had 21 points, but he (Malone) made him (Almond) work for everyone of them."
McKiver sank 10-of-14 free throws, which included seven in the final 5:53 of regulation. It marks the second time in the last three games that McKiver has made 10 free throws in a game. His 21 points also marks the 10th time this season he has recorded a 20-point game, the most by a Cougar since Andre Owens scored 20 points 15 times in 2004-05.
In addition to his 21 points, forwards Dion Dowell and Jahmar Thorpe combined for 32 points and 17 rebounds, while Oliver Lafayette chipped in with 12 points, seven rebounds, a game-high five assists and three steals.
Dowell registered his third double double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He opened the game with back-to-back slam-dunks to give the Cougars a 4-0 lead and Houston raced out to a 6-0 lead in the first 47 seconds when Lafayette stole the ball from Lorenzo Williams at halfcourt and drove for a lay-up.
"This was Dion's best performance of the season," Penders said. "I know he had a game with 22 points and 16 rebounds (against Charlotte) in Hawaii, but effort wise, this was his best performance. If he can play with the same type of effort, he is going to really help us."
The Cougars continued to put the pressure throughout the initial 20 minutes and used a spectacular alley-up throw down from Lafayette-to-Thorpe in transition coupled with a Lafayette triple at the 2:03 mark to hold a 36-19 advantage.
Rice (10-10, 4-3 C-USA) trimmed the deficit to 36-23 at the break. The Owls got within single-digits on a lay-up by Williams to make the score, 36-27, with 17:14 to go. The Cougars responded by scoring six unanswered points, capped by Dowell's three-point play to put the margin back up to 42-27 at the 15:17 mark.
The Owls charged back again and this time sliced Houston's lead down to 65-61 on a Morris Almond's thee-point shot from the left wing with 3:02 on the clock. Almond, who ranked third nationally in scoring coming into the game, had a chance to make it a four-point play but missed his free throw. He didn't shoot another shot and finished with 21 points.
"I thought Marcus Malone and Robert Lee did an excellent job on Morris Almond," Penders said. "I know if you look at the score sheet and see he had 21 points, but Marcus made him work for everyone of them.
"They ran a lot of stuff for him and in fairness to Marcus, they were running a lot of back screens. He is a great scorer and we held him to 21."
Rice made it a one-possession game at 66-63 after a Williams lay-up with 44 seconds left, but Thorpe buried two critical free throws, and McKiver put the finishing touches on the victory at the line to secure the 70-63 win.
Following the victory, Houston heads west and faces UTEP Saturday. Tip-off against the Minors is set for 8:05pm at the Don Haskins 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.