March 3, 2007
Houston - Marcus Malone and Robert McKiver each scored 19 points to lead the University of Houston men's basketball team to a 74-67 victory over UTEP in the final regular season game on Saturday night in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Malone scored 15 of his points off the bench in the first half. He entered the game with 14 minutes to play in the opening period and Houston trailing, 13-5 after UTEP's Maurice Thomas scored on a lay-up for the Miners.
Malone made his first three-point shot with 10 minutes to play in the opening period. Then, Dion Dowell made a lay-up and McKiver nailed a jumper to pull Houston to within 15-12.
Malone's fourth trey in the half gave Houston its first lead, 29-27, with 2:51 left in the opening period. He hit another three-point shot with 2:18 left to give the Cougars a 32-27 lead.
The Miners scored the final five points of the half when Stefon Jackson made one of his two free throws, Malik Alvin added a lay-up and Jackson hit another jumper to make the halftime score, 32-32.
In the second half, Dale Vanwright opened the scoring with a three-point basket from the top of the key to give the Miners an early 35-32 lead.
The Miners led 39-35 when Houston's two seniors Oliver Lafayette and Jahmar Thorpe combined for five points. First, Thorpe made both of his free throws, and Lafayette made a three-point shot from the left wing. Houston never trailed again and went on to post its 10th Conference USA win of the season and finish the regular season third in the Conference USA standings. The 10 C-USA wins and third-place finish are both the best in school history.
Thorpe finished the game with 14 points and five rebounds, while Lafayette scored seven points and recorded two critical steals in the closing minutes of the game. It was the final home appearance for Houston's two seniors.
Houston, which finished the regular season with a 16-14 overall record, will play the winner of the Tulsa-SMU game in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament next Thursday afternoon, Mar. 8, at 2:30 p.m., in the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.
Houston's quarterfinal game can be heard locally on AM 790 "The Sports Animal" and seen live on CSTV.