March 12, 2010
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Senior guard Aubrey Coleman led all players with 27 points, and junior forward Maurice McNeil added a team-high seven rebounds to lead the University of Houston men's basketball team to a 74-66 win against No. 6 seed Southern Miss during the semifinals of the GMC Sierra Conference USA Championship at BOK Center.
Coleman, who entered the game as the nation's leading scorer, posted 21 second-half points and connected on 10-of-12 free throw attempts while playing all 40 minutes to lead the Cougars.
Coming off the bench, McNeil recorded six points but led the Cougars with seven rebounds, including six off the offensive glass. The New York native also grabbed a pair of offensive boards during the final two minutes when the Golden Eagles had trimmed a 7-point Cougar lead to only two.
In both cases, McNeil was fouled after snaring the rebound and converted all but one of his free throws to pad the Cougar lead.
With the win, the Cougars advanced to the GMC Sierra Conference USA Tournament championship at 10:35 a.m., Saturday. The Cougars face No. 1 seed UTEP, which was a 75-61 winner against No. 5 seed Tulsa earlier in the day.
Fans can hear the championship game live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action. The pregame show is slated to begin at 10:15 a.m.
Fans also can watch the game on CBS with Gus Johnson calling the play-by-play action and Dan Bonner providing analysis.
Houston and UTEP split the regular-season series with each winning on its home court. The Cougars claimed a 75-65 win at Hofheinz Pavilion on Jan. 13, giving the Miners their lone C-USA loss of the season. UTEP evened the series with a 65-58 win in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 3.
Despite being outrebounded in Friday's semifinal, the Cougars hit 43.4 percent from the field and limited Southern Miss to only 38.5 percent. Just as importantly, the Cougars were steady from the free throw line, hitting 22-of-27 free throw attempts in the game, including 13-of-16 attempts from the charity stripe during the final two-and-a-half minutes to preserve the win.
The Cougars built a 59-52 lead when Coleman drained a jumper with 7:09 remaining in the game. However, the Golden Eagles used a 7-2 run during the next 4:21 and moved to within 61-59 when USM's Sai'Quon Stone hit a pair of free throws.
On the Cougars' ensuing possession, Coleman missed a 3-pointer but McNeil grabbed the loose ball and was hacked, hitting both free throw attempts, to push the Cougar lead back to 63-59 with 2:13 left.
After a missed USM shot and a missed Houston 3-point attempt, McNeil again came up big with the offensive board and was fouled, hitting 1-of-2 free throw attempts for a 66-61 Cougar lead.
The Golden Eagles were forced to foul in the final minute, and the Cougars iced the contest with Coleman four straight attempts and junior guard Adam Brown hitting 3-of-4 during the final 12 seconds.
Lewis, who played in his 96th consecutive game and played every minute in a game for the 18th time in his career, added 12 points with four rebounds. Brown was a major force off the bench for the Cougars, pouring in 13 points with a pair of 3-pointers and three rebounds.
The Cougar reserves outscored Southern Miss' bench 29-9 in the game.
Southern Miss forward Gary Flowers led the Golden Eagles with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Angelo Johnson added 12 points and a pair of assists.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 18-15 overall and advanced to the GMC Sierra Conference USA Tournament championship game for the second time in school history and to a conference tournament championship for the 11th time.
Houston improved to 18-15, while Southern Miss fell to 20-13. The Cougars avenged a regular-season loss to the Golden Eagles, who claimed a 57-55 win on a last-second tip-in at Hofheinz Pavilion on Feb. 6.
The Cougars also won at least 18 games in a season for the sixth straight season, extending their school record in that category.
* With Friday's win, the Cougars advanced to the GMC Sierra Conference USA Tournament championship game for the second time in school history (2007)... It also marked the 11th time in school history that the Cougars advanced to a conference tournament title game (nine in Southwest Conference).
* This marked the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Cougars advance the Conference USA Championship semifinals... Only a quarterfinal loss in 2008 prevents a much longer Houston streak.
* Friday's game was the Cougars fifth appearance at the Conference USA Championship semifinals... It was the program's 18th appearance in the conference tournament semifinals (13 in Southwest Conference).
* With Friday's win, the Cougars extended their school record to six straight seasons with at least 18 wins.
* With 21 points, senior guard Aubrey Coleman moved into 11th place in Houston career history with 1,477 points... Up next in the Houston records book is Rickie Winslow, who scored 1,548 points from 1983 to 1987.
* Coleman played every minute of a game for the eighth time in 2009-10 and the 12th time during his career.
* With 12 points, senior guard Kelvin Lewis moved into 15th place in Houston career history with 1,413 points... Up next in the Houston records book is Robert McKiver, who scored 1,435 points from 2006 to 2008.
* Senior guard Kelvin Lewis competed in his 96th consecutive game and made his 69th straight start... Both streaks are the longest among active Cougar players.
* Lewis played every minute of a game for the eighth time in 2009-10 and the 18th time during his career.