NEW ORLEANS - Seniors Maurice McNeil and Zamal Nixon each recorded 20-point games, but it would not be enough as the University of Houston men's basketball team dropped an 80-77 decision at Conference USA-rival Tulane on Wednesday night inside Fogelman Arena.
McNeil led the Cougars with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and added four rebounds. After being shut out in the opening 20 minutes, Nixon erupted for 20 points, including five 3-pointers in the second half, in the second half and posted a team-best six assists.
The Cougars held a 52-51 lead when sophomore forward Kendrick Washington hit 1-of-2 free throws with 9:15 remaining in the game. However, Tulane used some long-range shooting during the next four minutes to build a lead it would never relinquish.
During that stretch, the Green Wave nailed four of their seven 3-pointers in the game and took off on a 16-4 run that was capped when David Booker converted a layup for a 67-56 lead with 5:04 remaining.
The Cougars fought back valiantly and moved to within 69-65 when Nixon hit the second of back-to-back 3-pointers with 2:50 to go. However, that would be as close as the Cougars would get until the very end of the game.
Tulane forward Kendall Timmons connected on two free throws on the ensuing possession and those would be the final points scored by either team until just 32 seconds were left in the contest. In that final half-minute, Jordan Callahan accounted for all but one of the Green Wave's final nine points with all of those coming at the free throw line.
The Cougars proved to be steady shooters throughout the game and hit 54.7 percent from the field, including a sizzling 59.3 percent (16-of-27) in the second half alone. However, Tulane took advantage of 23 Cougar giveaways and 13 offensive rebounds to score 41 points and split the regular-season series against Houston.
With the loss, the Cougars fell to 12-16 overall and 4-11 in C-USA games. Tulane, which snapped a 12-game losing streak, improved to 13-15 overall and 3-12 in C-USA play.
McNeil recorded his fourth 20-point game of the season, while Nixon enjoyed his first of the year. Sophomore forward Kirk Van Slyke came off the bench to score 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while freshman forward Alandise Harris added 10 points in the loss.
Timmons posted a game-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting with a pair of 3-pointers, while Callahan finished with 21 points and a game-high 12 assists. Kevin Thomas came off the bench to add 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
The Cougars close out the regular season when they play host to crosstown-rival Rice at 5 p.m., Saturday, in Hofheinz Pavilion. That game will be part of a doubleheader with the Cougar women's team, which meets Tulane at 2 p.m., Saturday.
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.
With the purchase of a men's ticket to the Rice game, fans will receive free admission to the women's game. For only $15, fans can buy one ticket to see both games. Tickets for the women's game only start as low as $8.
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.
* With a win Saturday against Rice in the regular-season finale for both teams, the Cougars will clinch the No. 10 seed at next week's Buick Conference USA Championship, hosted by UTEP at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
* With a loss to the Owls, the Cougars will play as the No. 11 seed and could fall to the No. 12 seed depending on the result of Tulane's game at Memphis later in the day and other tiebreaker scenarios.
* With nine 3-pointers, the Cougars played their 302nd consecutive game with at least one trey.
* Cougars' 54.7 field goal percentage was their second-highest mark of the season... Trailed only the 56.5 percent (26-of-46) at Southern Miss in the Conference USA opener on Jan. 5.
* Senior forward Maurice McNeil and senior guard Zamal Nixon each enjoyed the fifth 20-point games of their careers.
* Senior guard Cory Tellis, a walk-on and former student manager, played a career-high 13 minutes for the second straight game... Tellis, a Friendswood, Texas, native also recorded the first rebound and assist of his career against the Green Wave.
* Freshman forward Alandise Harris' 10 rebounds was his fourth double-digit performance of the season in that category.
* Wednesday was the first time this season that the Cougars had two 20-point scorers in the same game... Last time Cougars accomplished that was by Aubrey Coleman (26) and Kelvin Lewis (24) against No. 20/20 Maryland at the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region First Round in Spokane, Wash., on March 19, 2010.