March 8, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Houston men's basketball team jumped out to an 11-point second-half lead and weathered a late rally by Southern Miss on the way to a 62-59 win in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Championship, presented by Aéropostale, Thursday at the FedEx Forum.
Robert McKiver scored a game-high 28 points, his 15th 20-plus point game this season, hitting 10-of-19 shots from the field, including five three-pointers.
No. 3 Houston (17-14) advances to Friday's semifinal against crosstown rival No. 7 Rice, which knocked second-seeded UCF 53-51 in the opening game of the tournament Thursday afternoon. It will be UH's second-straight appearance in the semifinal and third overall. Gametime will be determined later Thursday evening.
After Marcus Malone split a pair of free throws with nine seconds left to give UH its three-point cushion, No. 6 Southern Miss' Craig Craft hit the front of the rim as time expired, ending the Golden Eagles' season at 20-11.
Leading 34-19 with almost 16 minutes left, UH gave up a 15-point lead as Southern Miss tripled their point total over the next 10 minutes to take a 50-48 lead with 5:56 to go. The Cougars offense went cold, going 4-for-16 from the field during that span with all five of the team's second-half turnovers.
A jumper by McKiver with 3:55 left tied things up at 55 apiece and UH used some timely free throw shooting from Malone and Oliver Lafayette to hang on for the win.
The Cougars converted 21 Southern Miss turnovers into 21 points while only giving up 11 turnovers themselves.
After trailing 15-7 with 7:47 to go in the opening half, UH outscored Southern Miss 19-11 for a period of nearly 12 minutes spanning halftime, giving the Cougars a 34-19 lead with 15:49 remaining.
Malone finished with 20 points, his second-highest total of the season, Robert Lee and Nick Mosely came off the bench to add seven points and seven rebounds, respectively.
Jeremy Wise led Southern Mississippi with 16 points, despite shooting 6-of-17 from the field and committing 10 of the Golden Eagles' 21 turnovers. Sai'Quon Stone finished with 10 points. Wise had nine rebounds and Stone eight.
Oliver Lafayette, the Cougars' second-leading scorer, missed all seven of his shots on the day.
Houston's semifinal game can be heard locally on AM 790 "The Sports Animal" and seen live on CSTV.