March 20, 2006
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Nathan Bilyeu converted a three-point play with 2.3 seconds left to help Missouri State edge Houston 60-59 in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament in the Hammons Student Center on Monday night.
Houston's Lanny Smith, who finished with a game-high 21 points, helped the Cougars overcome a three-point deficit in the final 53 seconds of the game when Jahmar Thorpe hit Smith for a three-point basket from the top of the key that tied the score at 57-57.
Then, after Missouri State's Blake Ahearn missed a jumper from the left baseline corner, Oliver Lafayette grabbed the rebound and hit Smith who drove up the court for a lay-up to put Houston up 59-57 with 11.5 seconds remaining.
After Missouri State called time out, Deke Thompson drove to the basket and missed, but Bilyeu made the putback and was fouled by Thorpe. He made the foul shot to give the Bears the win.
Missouri State opened the night scoring the first five points in the game, before Houston hit eight three-point field goals en route to a 37-36 lead at halftime. Ramon Dyer hit four of the three-pointers and also scored on two slam dunks off of steals to scored all 16 of his points in the opening stanza.
Houston extended its lead to 40-36 when Smith made a three-point shot with 19:07 left to play. But Missouri State came back with a 9-0 run to grab a 45-40 lead on Shane Laurie's jump shot.
The Cougars fought back to tie the score at 49-49 with 10:16 left to play when Oliver Lafayette stole the ball from Thompson at midcourt and took it in for a lay-up.
But, Houston did not score in the next seven minutes. Smith ended the drought with a three-point basket that pulled the Cougars to within 54-52 with 3:29 left to play.
Kellan Easley made a jump shot from the right block on the Bears' next possession to extend Missouri State's lead to 56-52.
Houston came right back when Smith hit Thorpe at the free throw line, and he quickly passed to Lafayette for a lay-up behind the Bears' two-three zone defense to pull to pull the Cougars back to within two.
Tyler Chaney hit one of his two free throws with 2:11 left, and neither team scored until the final 53 seconds.
With Monday night's loss, Houston ends its season with a 21-10 record, the first 20-win season for the Cougars since 1992-93. UH also finished the regular season with its best Conference USA finish in school history with a fourth-place 9-5 mark. The nine wins also tied a school record for the most C-USA wins in school history.
In addition to Smith's 21 points and Dyer's 16 points, senior guard Brian Latham tallied nine points, three assists and four steals. Lafayette struggled with his shooting and ended the night with six points. But, he led Houston with seven rebounds and also tied Latham and Dyer for the team lead with four steals.
Thorpe finished with five points and four assists, and senior guard Chris Lawson was the only Cougar to score off the bench, finishing with two points.
Easley led Missouri State with 14 points, and Bilyeu came off the bench to tally 12. .