Feb. 20, 2007
Hattiesburg, Miss. - University of Houston senior guard Oliver Lafayette did all he could to keep the University of Houston men's basketball team in contention against Southern Miss in Green Coliseum Monday night. But in the end, Lafayette's efforts couldn't overcome Courtney Beasley and Jeremy Wise scoring 22 points each as the Golden Eagles held on for a 74-69 victory.
"Beasley surprised us tonight," Lafayette said. "He made some big shots for them, especially in the first half."
The game was tied, 17-17, with six minutes to play in the first half, when Southern Miss used a 13-5 run to take a 30-22 halftime lead. Beasley scored nine of his points in the opening period and Craig Craft, who finished the game with 11 points, added eight in the opening period.
Craft keyed the Southern Miss rally at the end of the half with a 10-foot jumper on the left baseline and a pair of three-point field goals. Lafayette and Dion Dowell scored seven points each in the first half for the Cougars.
"We opened the game stagnant on the offensive end in the first half," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "Southern Miss had five days off to prepare for this game, so we wanted to hang around and try to steal the game at the end.
"I thought we played better offensively in the second half, especially Oliver."
The Cougars almost did just that in the second half when Penders started a bigger lineup. He inserted Tafari Toney at centers, with Dowell and Jahmar Thorpe two forward spots, and Lafayette and Robert McKiver in the backcourt.
The Cougars responded as Toney scored the first two points on a dunk shot and offensive rebound. Toney finished the game with eight points and five rebounds.
Houston climbed back into the game with a 15-10 run in the first four minutes of the second half to cut Southern Miss' lead to 40-37.
"I was proud of the effort we had in the second half," Penders said. "But, every time we would get close, Beasley or Wise would hit a big shot to keep us from coming all the way back."
After Houston had closed to within three, Beasley hit back-to-back three-point shots to give the Golden Eagles a nine-point lead, 46-37, with 14 minutes left to play.
Houston rallied again, and this time closed to within one point, 50-49, when Dowell stole the ball from Wise and passed the ball ahead to McKiver for a lay-up.
However, Beasley answered a second time with a two-point shot and Wise scored five points on a three-pointer from the left wing and a jump shot in the lane to extend USM's lead to 57-52.
The Golden Eagles led 68-61 when Lafayette made two free throws and passed to Thorpe on the left wing for a three-point field goal that pulled the Cougars to within two points with 58 seconds left to play.
That was as close as Houston could get as Southern Miss held on for the win.
The loss drops Houston's overall record to 14-12, and the Cougars enter Wednesday night's game against Tulane tied for second place with UCF in the Conference USA standings with an 8-4 league record.
Houston and UCF play each other in Orlando on February 28 after the Cougars play at Memphis next Sunday in a game that is televised by CBS Sports.
The Cougars close out the regular season on March 3 when they play host to UTEP at 7:00 p.m.