Robert McKiver scored 23 points against East Carolina Saturday. (AP/file photo)
Feb. 10, 2007
HOUSTON -Robert McKiver scored 23 points and handed out six assists to lead the University of Houston men's basketball team to an 83-59 victory over East Carolina, Saturday night in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Houston took control of the game from the opening tip as Jahmar Thorpe scored the first four points of the game on a jump shot and slam dunk. Marcus Malone and McKiver each added a three-point basket to give the Cougars a 10-0 lead in the first 3:34 of the game.
"You know it is February and our team is coming together," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "We have had a lot of things happen to us and played a very tough schedule. We could have gotten down and a lot of teams that go through those spins, kind of throw in the towel. Our players have not. Instead, we have have continued to play hard.
I have always felt my teams played their best in February and March. That is what I point towards, even though I had my doubts in January. The turning point came in our game against UCF when we overcame a 22-point deficit."
After McKiver scored another trey, reserve center Tafari Toney came off the bench to score six points to extend Houston's lead to 21-8 with 12:18 remaining in the opening half.
"I was just scoring on some putbacks," Toney said. "When I shot the ball, you saw what happened. I am basically a garbage man because I clean up the offensive boards and put the ball back in."
Houston never looked back as the Cougars held a 44-20 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Houston scored the first five points of the period as McKiver made a lay-up and Malone nailed a three-pointer from the left baseline to give the Cougars their biggest lead of the night, 49-20 with 17:45 left to play.
Houston (13-10, 7-3 in C-USA) cruised the rest of the way to win its second straight game and seventh win in the last eight games.
In addition to McKiver's 23 points, Thorpe finished with 15, and Toney registered career-highs of 14 points and nine rebounds.
"We have been waiting for him (Toney) to play like that all year," McKiver said. "He plays hard and practices hard. If he continues to play like that, we will be a hard team to beat."
Dion Dowell scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Oliver Lafayette grabbed a career-best of 10 rebounds and handed out six assists. "Oliver has a very bad head cold, and most players would have sat out this game," Penders said. "He wasn't himself, but he grabbed 10 rebounds and drove them nuts defensively in the first half."
Junior guard Darrell Jenkins led East Carolina with 31 points as he made 10 of his 13 field goal attempts, including 8 of 10 three-point tries. Jenkins also handed out six assists for the Pirates, who fell to 5-18 and 0-10 in C-USA.
UH will celebrate "Ladies Night at Hofheinz Pavilion" on Valentine's Day when Houston plays host to South Alabama at 7:00 p.m. The Jaguars have an 18-7 record this season and have won 11 straight games heading into Sunday night's game against Arkansas State in Mobile, Ala. All ladies attending the game will be admitted free to the game.