Dec. 30, 2006
HOUSTON - Oliver Lafayette and Dion Dowell combined for 30 points, but it wasn't enough to offset the University of Houston men's basketball team's poor shooting as UNLV handed the Cougars their third straight loss, 78-62, Saturday night in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Both teams struggled to make a basket early in the game before Jahmar Thorpe scored three points on a lay-up and free throw and Robert McKiver nailed a three-point basket to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead.
But, UNLV bounced back to take a 12-11 lead when Kevin Kruger hit all three of his free throws. The Runnin' Rebels never trailed again.
The Cougars kept the game close most of the first half, trailing 20-19 with 5:28 left to play. However, Kruger ignited a 10-1 run in the next 90 seconds when he made a three-point-shot from the top of the key and hit jumper and free throw.
"We were moving the ball pretty well to get open shots, but we were missing them" Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "Lanny Smith had four assists in the game, but probably should have had 10. You can't get any assists when guys miss shots."
The Cougars closed the gap to eight points at halftime, 34-26, when Robert Lee scored a lay-up in the final second.
Houston opened the second half much the same way as the Cougars outscored the Rebels 7-2, on jump shots by Lee and Thorpe and three-point basket by Oliver Lafayette.
But that was as close as the Cougars could get as Houston went ice cold from the field, scoring just four points in the next four minutes. By then, UNLV had opened up a 56-39 lead with 13:31 left to play in the game.
The Runnin' Rebels shot 51.9 percent from the field in the second half, including making six of their 10 three-point shots. UNLV also was perfect at the free throw line, making all 10 of its free throws.
Houston, meanwhile, finished the second half shooting 37.1 percent from the field and made just two of its 12 three point attempts.
The Cougars did make eight of their 10 free throws in the second period and finished the game 13-17 at the free throw line. But, Houston was just 22-68 from the field for 32.4 percent, including 5-36 from behind a three-point arc.
"We have to shoot and make some shots," Penders added. "It's that simple. Right now, it is 90 percent psychological with our guys. Robert McKiver, Oliver Lafayette, Marcus Malone and Lanny are all capable shooters. We just need to relax. It will come around."
Wink Adams led UNLV with 17 points, while Wendell White added 14 and Kruger finished with 13. Gaston Essengue also scored 11 points for the Runnin' Rebels, who won their ninth straight game and improved to 13-2 this season.
Lafayette scored 16 points to lead the Cougars, while Dowell finished with 14. Thorpe also scored 11 points despite spending much of the first half on the bench with foul trouble. Lanny Smith and Lee each scored nine for Houston.
The Cougars are 5-6 this season and travel to Kentucky on Jan. 3. The game will be televised regionally on Fox Sports South and can be heard throughout the Houston area on AM 790, The Sports Animal.
Houston opens Conference USA play against Memphis on January 11 in a nationally televised game on ESPN.