Feb. 26, 2005
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Houston guard Lanny Smith made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 19 seconds to preserve a 76-72 win at East Carolina in a Conference USA game Saturday.
The Pirates opened the game with a 9-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game before Smith nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key, Senior guard Andre Owens drove for a lay-up and Cedrick Hensley came off the bench to score seven points to give Houston a 16-13 lead with 11:54 left in the first half.
The Cougars never trailed again and extended their lead to 36-24 when Owens made two free throws and hit a five-foot bank shot. But, East Carolina point guard Japhet McNeil scored five points and Mike Cook hit a lay-up with 3 second left to make the half-time score 36-31.
East Carolina scored the first four points in the second half, before Hensley scored seven more points and Owens added five more to extend Houston's lead to 58-42 with 12:14 left to play.
The Cougars led by as many as 18 in the second half when Ramon Dyer nailed a three-point shot from the top of the key to make score 67-49 with 8:57 left to play.
But, East Carolina rallied again as senior center Moussa Badiane scored 12 points in the next seven minutes to key a 22-6 run to pull the Pirates to within 73-71 with 42 seconds left to play.
Badiane had a chance to tie the score with 27.5 seconds left to play, but missed the first of his two free throws. He made the second, but the miss proved costly, as the Pirates were force to send Smith to the foul line twice in the final 19 seconds of the game. Smith made three of his final four free throw attempts to make the final score 76-72.
Four players scored double figures for Houston (18-10, 9-5) led by Cedrick Hensley. who came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points. Smith had 18 points, Andre Owens neted 17 points and Chris Lawson finished with 11.
In his final home game at ECU, Badiane scored a game-high 22 points. Sophomore Mike Cook and freshman Tom Hammonds each scored 16 points for the Pirates.
The game also marked the final home game for ECU head coach Bill Herrion, who was asked last week to step down at the end of the season
The victory coupled with Louisville's 53-44 victory at Memphis, moved the Cougars into fifth place in the Conference USA standings heading into the final week of the regular season. Both Houston and Memphis have a 9-5 C-USA record and the Cougars own the tiebreaker by virtue of Houston's 66-53 victory over Tigers on February 5.
Houston closes the regular season with a game at Marquette next Wednesday and play host to UAB on Saturday, March 5. Memphis travels to Saint Louis next Wednesday night before closing out the regular season playing host to 22nd-ranked Cincinnati next Saturday. The Bearcats enter the final week tied with DePaul for third place with 10-4 league records.