HOUSTON - Trailing for most of the game, the University of Houston men's basketball team moved to within three points midway through the second half, but SMU used a 15-4 run to close out the game and take a 65-51 win against the Cougars on Wednesday night inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
SMU built a 39-32 lead at the halftime break and built that advantage up to 10 points when Ryan Harp converted a layup for a 50-40 lead with 12:23 remaining in the contest. However, the Cougars responded with a 7-0 run and moved to within 50-47 when senior forward Maurice McNeil made a layup on a pass from sophomore forward Kirk Van Slyke with 9:18 left.
Unfortunately, that would be the final points the Cougars would score until 39 seconds were left in the game. SMU used a 15-0 run during the next eight-and-a-half minutes to build a double-digit lead.
With the loss, the Cougars fell to 12-12 overall and 4-7 in C-USA games. SMU improved to 16-9 overall and 7-4 in league games. The two teams split the regular-season series after the Cougars claimed a 70-68 win against the Mustangs in Dallas on Jan. 15.
SMU used hot shooting throughout the game to take the win. The Mustangs converted 62.5 percent of their shots in the opening half and never trailed in the game. With some steady shooting of their own (51.9) percent) and only four giveaways, the Cougars trailed by only seven points at the break.
McNeil led the Cougars with 14 points, while Thibodeaux added 12 points, thanks in part to three 3-pointers. Harris finished with a team-high five rebounds.
SMU forward Papa Dia led all players with 27 points and seven rebounds, while Robert Nyakundi added 16 points with four 3-pointers, all in the first half. No other SMU player finished with more than seven points.
The Cougars meet UTEP at 8:05 p.m. (CST), Saturday, inside the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas. UTEP escaped with a 57-52 win against the Cougars on Jan. 22 inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
That game can be seen live on CBS College Sports with Jason Knapp calling the play-by-play action and Wally Szczerbiak serving as analyst.
From there, the team continues its road swing when it meets Memphis at 8 p.m., Tuesday, inside the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. That game also will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports with Tom McCarthy calling the play-by-play action and Pete Gillen working as analyst.
Fans can hear all Cougar men's basketball games live on SportsTalk 790 AM KBME with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend Elvin Hayes serving as analyst.
Two regular-season home games remain on the schedule, and Cougar men's basketball tickets are available now.
Fans can purchase the Houston Hoops 4-Pack for the UAB (Feb. 26) game at Hofheinz Pavilion. For only $48, fans can receive 4 general admission tickets, 4 small drinks, 4 hot dogs and 4 hats (selected styles) from the UH Fan Shop.
If more than four tickets are needed, each additional ticket purchased will cost only $12 each and will receive the extra items.
The Houston Hoops 4-Pack will not be available on game days at the Hofheinz Pavilion ticket windows.
Fans have several options when ordering their men's basketball tickets. They can visit the Athletics Ticket Office, located on the first floor of the Athletics/Alumni Center by the UH Fan Shop, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Fans also can call 713-GO-COOGS (462-6647) or click the Tickets tab at UHCougars.com to buy tickets today.
* The Cougars attempted and made only one free throw against SMU... It was the program's lowest total made since failing to convert one at TCU on Jan. 19, 2005.
* SMU's win was the Mustangs' first in Houston since Nov. 27. 1999.