HOUSTON- Playing in his final regular-season game in Hofheinz Pavilion, University of Houston senior guard Darian Thibodeaux made the most of it to lead the Cougars to a dominating 82-53 win against Conference USA rival Tulane on Wednesday night.
The Dallas native was one of five starters with double-digit points, posting 12 points with a pair of 3-pointers while dishing out a career-high seven assists with four rebounds and only one turnover in 39 minutes.
However, the Kimball High product also spearheaded an outstanding defensive effort by the Cougars. Guarding Tulane freshman guard Ricky Tarrant for most of the night, Thibodeaux held Tarrant scoreless on 0-of-9 shooting from the field.
Tarrant, a seven-time C-USA Freshman of the Week honoree this season, led all players with 19.6 points per game in C-USA games only. It was the first time this season that Tarrant had been held scoreless and ended his streak of 14 consecutive games with 10+ points.
Tulane connected on only 32.2 percent from the field and was outrebounded 41-27 by the Cougars.
After falling behind 19-5 earlier this season in New Orleans, the Cougars turned the tables on the Green Wave. Houston raced out to a 27-7 lead through the first 10-and-a-half minutes and never led by fewer than double digits the rest of the way.
Hitting a sizzling 69 percent (20-of-29) from the field in the game's first 20 minutes, the Cougars built a 44-30 lead by halftime and never looked back.
Coming out of the locker room, the Cougars used a 19-3 run to open the first eight-and-a-half minutes and eventually built as much as a 32-point advantage.
With the win, Houston won for the third time in its last four games and improved to 14-14 overall and 6-9 in C-USA games. Tulane fell to 15-14 overall and 3-12 in C-USA games.
The Cougars also clinched the No. 9 seed at next week's Conference USA Championship and will face No. 8 seed UTEP in Wednesday's First-Round matchup. Game time will be determined with the completion of the bracket following this weekend's regular-season finales.
Thibodeaux was only part of an offensive attack that drained 60.3 percent (35-of-58) from the field. Junior guard Jonathon Simmons led all players with 23 points for his team-leading eighth 20-point game of the season, while freshman forward TaShawn Thomas finished with 13 points and fell just one rebound shy of his ninth double-double of the year.
Redshirt freshman guard Joseph Young tied with Thibodeaux with 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and dished out five assists without a giveaway in 30 minutes of play. Sophomore forward Alandise Harris added 11 points with nine rebounds, while junior forward Leon Gibson came off the bench to snare a team-high 10 rebounds.
Tulane forward Josh Davis scored 22 points with 12 rebounds to lead Tulane in both categories. He was the only Green Wave player to reach double-digit points. Jordan Callahan and Jay Hook each finished with nine points apiece.
Enjoying the Leap Year, the Cougars played for only the fourth time in school history on Feb. 29. However, the Cougars continued a trend with their fourth straight win in games on that date, all by double-digit points.
The Cougars close out the regular season when they face Conference USA and crosstown-rival Rice at 7 p.m., Saturday, inside Tudor Fieldhouse on the Rice campus.
Fans can hear all Cougar Basketball games live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes providing analysis. The pregame show is slated to begin 15 minutes before tipoff.
Saturday's game also can be seen live on CSS (Houston Comcast channel 129) with Craig Ackerman calling the play-by-play action and Matt Bullard providing analysis.
Fans can follow live scoring by clicking the "GameTracker" link at UHCougars.com.
Fans also can hear live audio and watch live video via Cougar All-Access at UHCougars.com. Fans should note that a charge is required to watch and hear streamed games on-line.