March 13, 2013
TULSA, Okla. - University of Houston sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas posted 16 points and 10 rebounds for his team-leading 13th double-double this season, and the Cougars held off a furious comeback in a 72-67 win against No. 11 seed Rice during the Conference USA Championship First Round inside the BOK Center.
The Cougars built as much as an 18-point lead late in the first half, but the Owls closed out the opening period with an 11-5 run to move to within 36-25 at the break.
In the second half, Rice guard Tamir Jackson scored the team's first 16 points and the Owls eventually built as much as a 58-55 lead when Max Guercy banked in a layup with 8:19 remaining in the game.
However, the Cougars rallied to score the next eight points during the next three minutes for a 63-58 lead , thanks to two points each from four different players - Thomas, sophomore guard Joseph Young, junior guard Tione Womack and freshman forward Danuel House.
Rice rallied again and took a 67-65 lead when Keith Washington hit a jumper with 2:33 to go. However, that would be the final points the Owls would score of the rest of the night.
With just 1:47 remaining, House - the 2013 C-USA Freshman of the Year - drove the lane for a basket and was fouled for an old-fashioned 3-point play and a 68-67 Houston lead. After a missed Rice shot, House snared the defensive rebound, and the Cougars went to work on taking time off the game clock.
With 45 seconds left, Young's 3-point attempt was off the mark, but senior forward Leon Gibson grabbed the offensive board and threw it down for a monster dunk and a 70-67 Houston advantage.
Rice's Keith Washington was off on his potential game-tying 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, and sophomore forward Mikhail McLean hit 1-of-2 free throw attempts after being fouled on the defensive rebound with 16 seconds to go.
Young hit one more free throw with five seconds remaining to ice the win.
Thomas, a 2013 All-Conference USA First-Team honoree, connected on 8-of-13 attempts from the field and added a pair of assists in the win. House finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and an assist, while redshirt freshman guard Jherrod Stiggers came off the bench to post 11 points, including two 3-pointers.
Young finished the night with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Gibson totaled eight points, six rebounds and a career-high four blocked shots.
Jackson led Rice and all players with 30 points and added a team-high nine rebounds. Julian DeBose recorded 13 points with four rebounds, while Austin Ramljak finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
With Wednesday's win, the Cougars meet No. 3 seed UTEP at 2:30 p.m., Thursday in the C-USA Championship Quarterfinals. It will be the fifth time in the last six years that the two teams will meet in the postseason.
Fans can hear Thursday's game live on SportsTalk 790 with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Houston legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes providing analysis. The pregame show is slated to begin at 2:15 p.m., Thursday.
Fans can hear the audio stream live through Cougar All-Access on UHCougars.com. Due to network broadcast restrictions, video of Thursday's game will NOT be available on the Conference USA Digital Network or Cougar All-Access.
Fans can watch Thursday's game live on CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports). Fans also can follow live stats by clicking the GameTracker link or clicking here.
Cougars have won five straight Conference USA Championship games inside the BOK Center... Program won four consecutive games in as many days on March 10-13, 2010.
Cougars improved to 6-0 against Rice at conference tournaments, including a 2-0 record at the C-USA Championship.
In nine career starts, Womack has totaled 38 assists with only eight turnovers... Finished with a game-high six assists and only one turnover against Rice on Wednesday... Has had only one game with 2+ turnovers in any of his nine starts.
With two 3-pointers, redshirt freshman guard Jherrod Stiggers extended his Houston freshman single-season record to 66 treys.
With four blocked shots, Gibson doubled his previous career best... Previous high was two, done three times and most recently at Rice on Jan. 30.
Thomas started his 60th consecutive game, every game of his collegiate career.