March 9, 2007
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Houston men's basketball used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to knock off crosstown rival Rice, 77-62, Friday, in the semifinals of the Conference USA Basketball Championship, presented by Aèropostale at the FedEx Forum.
Third-seeded Houston (18-14) will make its first-ever appearance in the C-USA Men's Basketball Championship Final Saturday against top-seed Memphis. Tipoff is scheduled for 10:35 a.m. CST with the game being televised nationally by CBS. The game will also air live on AM 790 "The Sports Animal".
Leading 29-23 at halftime, UH put the game away with a 12-2, 5:50 run that gave the Cougars a 53-37 lead with 8:10 to go. The run was capped by an alley-oop dunk from Robert McKiver that Jahmar Thorpe slammed home and a deep three-pointer from Dion Dowell.
Houston appeared in nine Southwest Conference Championship games, winning five of those. The Cougars last conference tournament championship win came in 1992 when UH topped Texas, 91-72 for the SWC Title.
All five of UH's starters scored in double figures with McKiver leading the way, scoring a game-high 25 points and grabbing six rebounds. Oliver Lafayette finished with 17 points, Marcus Malone had 13, Thorpe 10 and Dowell added 11.
It was Malone's defense on Rice's Morris Almond, the league's player of the year, that was most impressive. Almond, who led the league in scoring and was second in the nation averaging 26.9 points per game, was held to 11 points for Rice (16-16).
Lorenzo Williams led seventh-seeded Rice with 16 points, while Patrick Britton scored 13.
The Owls tied the game at 20 when Williams scored on a layup with 5:55 left in the first half. Then Rice went cold, failing to score for more than 3 minutes, and Houston scored seven straight points for a 29-23 halftime lead.
Tonight's game was the first meeting between the two schools in a conference post-season tournament since the two faced off in the 1990 Southwest Conference Classic. Houston won that game, 90-81. This was only the second meeting between the two schools in a conference semifinal game- Houston downed Rice 53-50 in the 1984 SWC Semifinals.