Feb. 14, 2007
HOUSTON - Carlos Smith's 3-pointer with 2:56 left broke a 57-57 tie and helped South Alabama win its 13th straight game, 66-61, over Houston Wednesday night before a disappointing audience at Hofheinz Pavilion.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy defensively," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "But we missed a lot of open looks on the offensive end that we have to knock down."
In a game that featured 14 lead changes and was tied nine times, both teams fought for control throughout the game until the final minutes when Smith hit his three-point shot.
Houston (13-11) took a 57-55 lead with 3:55 left in the game when Robert McKiver hit one of his five 3-pointers.
But the Jaguars answered quickly as Ernest Little scored a lay-up to tie the score, and Smith followed with his three-point shot to give the Jaguars the lead for good.
South Alabama extended its lead to five points on a pair of free throws by Daon Merritt, before Thorpe countered with making the second of his two free throws and pulling Houston to within 62-58 with 1:19 left to play. "We tried to go to Jahmar inside on a few occasions during the second half, but they were jamming up the lane pretty good," Penders said. "That is when we have to make the outside shots, particularily Oliver Lafayette and Dion Dowell."
Lafayette and Dowell finished the game scoring just four points each as they combined to shoot 4 of 16 from the field, including 0-11 behind the three-point arc.
Dowell did help out on the backboards as he finished the game with eight rebounds. One of his rebounds came after Demetric Bennett had made two free throws to put South Alabama up, 64-58.
Dowell grabbed Lafayette's missed three-point attempt and passed it out to Thorpe just left of the key. Thorpe nailed a three-point shot of his own with nine seconds left to make the score 64-61. The Cougars were forced to foul Smith, and he made both free throws to give South Alabama the 66-61 victory.
The loss snapped Houston's two-game overall winning streak and the Cougars five-game winning streak in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Thorpe scored 19 points and added a game-high 13 rebounds for his first double-double performance of the season, and second of his career.McKiver also finished with 19 points and handed out a career-high eight assists.
"We had an opportunity tonight to give ourselves a non-conference win against a good team," McKiver said. "But, we didn't capitalize on it. The tunnel to the NCAA Tournament is not completely closed yet, and we need to keep fighting. But, a win tonight would have been good on our resume."
Houston will play its third straight home game this Saturday afternoon, when the Cougars return to Conference USA action playing host to UAB at 5:00 p.m. in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Fans can purchase tickets to the UAB game for just $5.
Smith finished with a team-high 15 points for the Jaguars (20-7), who have not lost a game since falling at Western Kentucky, 51-73, on Dec. 22.
Little finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Brandon Davis added 12 points off the bench.