Nov. 9, 2012
HOUSTON - Senior forward Leon Gibson posted a career-high 20 points with 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas added 11 points and a career-best 20 rebounds to lead the University of Houston Men's Basketball team to an 81-76 win against Florida A&M on Friday afternoon inside Hofheinz Pavilion.
Combining for 31 points and 30 rebounds, Thomas and Gibson enjoyed career days. Gibson's point total topped his previous high of 17 at Marshall on Feb. 22, 2012 and gave him the second double-double of his career.
With 20 rebounds, Thomas became the first Cougar to grab at least 20 boards since Louis Truscott posted 21 at TCU on Feb. Feb. 1, 2003. The Killeen, Texas, native also enjoyed the 10th double-double of his young career.
Houston jumped out to a 7-3 lead early, but the Rattlers used a 13-0 run during a 3-minute stretch to build a 16-7 lead midway through the first half. Florida A&M eventually took a 35-34 lead into the locker room at the break.
In the second half, the Cougars used a 15-7 run early in the final period to take a 49-47 lead on the second of two Thomas free throws. The two teams went back and forth from there before Florida A&M grabbed a 58-57 advantage on Muhammad Abdul-Alien's layup with 7:49 remaining in the game.
However, that would be the last time the Rattlers would lead. The Cougars used a 12-4 run during the next two-and-a-half minutes for a 69-62 and never relinquished the lead again. Making his collegiate debut and the first start of his career, redshirt freshman guard Jherrod Stiggers started the rally with a pair of free throws and drained two of his game-high five 3-pointers in that stretch to lead the Cougars to their eighth season-opening win in the last nine years.
Florida A&M continued to rally and moved to within 75-74 when Markee Teal hit a jumper with less than two minutes to go. On the ensuing possession, sophomore point guard J.J. Thompson's driving layup was off the mark, but Gibson snared the offensive rebound and put it back up and in for a 77-74 lead.
After FAMU's Walter Davis drained a pair of free throws with 1:05 left for a 77-76 Houston lead, Gibson struck again for the Cougars, dunking a missed Thompson shot for a 79-76 advantage. On the Rattlers' ensuing possession, Thomas swatted a 3-point attempt, and Thompson stole the ball from FAMU's Jamari Bradshaw, leading to a pair of free throws.
The Cougars were steady from the line throughout the game, hitting 21 of their 26 attempts.
Adams and Reggie Lewis each posted 18 points to lead Florida A&M in the loss, while Bradshaw finished with 14 points and a pair of steals. Teal led the Rattlers with six rebounds.
The Cougars will compete in their first road action of the year when the meet San Jose State at 9 p.m. (PST)/7 p.m. (PST)/9 p.m. (CST) inside the Events Center in San Jose, Calif. This will be the first time the Cougars have played the Spartans in basketball.
Fans can hear that game live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action.
Cougars tipped off their 68th season of intercollegiate men's basketball... With Friday's win, Cougars improved to 1,135-774 all-time.
Friday's game was the first meeting between the two teams in basketball.
Cougars improved to 49-19 all-time in their season openers... Team has won eight of its last nine season openers... Only a loss to Georgia Southern on Nov. 10, 2008, during the first day of the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium prevents a longer winning streak.
Friday's game was the second game to tip off nationally... Only the Rochester College-Eastern Michigan game (11 a.m. CST) tipped off earlier.
Head coach James Dickey improved to 9-4 all-time in season openers during his career... Dickey is 4-0 all-time in season openers at Houston, winning by an average of 20.3 points in those contests.
Redshirt freshman guards Jherrod Stiggers and LeRon Barnes made the first starts of their careers.
Stiggers, junior guard Brandon Morris, junior guard Tione Womack and freshman forward Danuel House made their collegiate debuts for the Cougars.
Junior forward J.J. Richardson (foot) and sophomore guard Joseph Young (quad) sat out the games with injuries... It was the first game missed for Young during his career... The Yates High product is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday at San Jose State... Richardson will be reevaluated by team doctors and athletics trainers late next week.