March 9, 2006
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The No. 4 University of Houston men's basketball team used a 12-2 run to open the game and knocked off No. 5 UCF, 71-52, in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Men's Basketball Championship, presented by Aeropostale, Thursday at the FedEx Forum.
Houston (20-8) eclipsed the 20-victory mark for the first time since the 1992-93 season. That season, UH finished 21-9 and appeared in the NIT. UH advances to the semifinals for the second time in school history and the first since 2002. That season, UH dropped an 85-73 game to Marquette in Cincinnati, Ohio.
"I thought we did a great job defensively," head coach Tom Penders said. "We made it difficult for UCF to get open looks. We have played better games offensively, but we hit enough three's early to get it going. I have been coaching for 33 years and have never had a better defensive team than this one."
UCF (14-15) dropped its second-straight game to the Cougars, bowing out of its first C-USA Championship with a 1-1 record. The Golden Knights entered tonight's game with a seven-game league tournament winning streak, dating back to the 2004 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
The Cougars, winners in 10 of their past 12 games, took control of the game in the second half by dominating the offensive boards and hitting second-chance buckets. UH tallied 12 of its 20 offensive rebounds in the second 20 minutes and held a 21-10 advantage on second-chance points.
"Our kids were really physical and battled tonight," Penders said. "We did a good job of sealing off, boxing out and getting after the boards."
A 15-4 Houston run midway through the second half gave the Cougars a 21-point margin, 51-30 with 11:18 left, the biggest cushion of the night. UCF got the deficit down to 14 at 60-46 with 2:35 left, but would get no closer as UH hit 9 of 9 from the free throw line in the last 2:33 to close out the win.
Oliver Lafayette led all players with a game-high 19 points as he hit five three-pointers in the game. It was his seventh game this season hitting for five or more from behind the line. Jahmar Thorpe earned his second-career double-double, finishing with 11 points and game-high 12 boards, tying his career-high. Lanny Smith added 13 points and four assists.
The Cougars led 32-19 at the break after hitting six three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes. It marked the fifth time this season UH has held an opponent under 20 points in a half. The Cougars are 5-0 when accomplishing that feat. Houston took care of the ball, committing only three turnovers in the first half, compared to eight for UCF, leading to nine points.
Houston hit four-straight three's to open the game, leading 12-2 in the first four minutes. Smith and Lafayette knocked down a pair of triples apiece. The Golden Knights missed their first three shots and got on the board with a layup by Marcus Johnson at the 16:05 mark. Houston did not hit a two-point bucket until Brian Latham hit a layup at the 13:53 mark.
Josh Peppers led UCF with 15 points. He was six for seven from the charity stripe and the only Golden Knight to find double figures.
The Cougars are back in action tomorrow against No. 1 seed Memphis. With UH advancing, it marks the first time since 2001 that the top-four seeds have advanced to the semifinals of the C-USA Championship. Friday's tipoff is slotted for 3:35 p.m. CST, with CSTV set to televise the game nationally. CSTV is available on TIME WARNER Cable (Channel 106), DIRECTV (Channel 610) and on DISH Network (Channel 152). No. 2 UAB will square off with No. 3 UTEP following the conclusion of the UH-Memphis game.