Smith Leads Cougars to One Point Victory

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    Smith Leads Cougars to 73-72 Victory Over Charlotte

    Houston- Junior guard Dominic Smith equaled his season high of 23 points and grabbed a career-high eight steals to lead the University of Houston to a 73-72 victory over Charlotte on Guy V. Lewis Court Sunday night.

    Charlotte looked like it would run away and hide from the Cougars in the first half as Jobey Thomas scored 18 points as he was 6-of-6 from the field and made all four of his three-point attempts, to lead the 49ers to a 43-31 half-time lead.

    The second half opened the same way as Charlotte extended its lead to 18 (60-42) with 12:42 left to play.

    "When they were leading by 18 points in the second half, I told the team 'Don't quit, don't quit!'" Houston head coach Ray McCallum said.

    The Cougars listened, as they went on a 23-12 run during the next seven minutes to close the gap to 72-65 with 3:58 remaining to play.

    Smith led the rally as he scored 12 points during the stretch. Then, Houston's defense tightened up even more as the Cougars held Charlotte scoreless the rest of the way.

    Alton Ford made two free throws to pull Houston to within 72-67 with 3:06 left to play. Smith also added a pair of free throws with 2:30 left to make the score 72-69 with 2:30 remaining.

    After Demon Brown missed a three-point try for Charlotte with 59 seconds remaining, George Williams grabbed the defensive rebound and McCallum used one of his two remaining timeouts with 52 seconds left.

    Houston came out of the time out and worked the ball to Williams, who made a jump shot from the free throw line to make the score, 72-71, with 45 seconds left to play. Charlotte's Rodney White missed a jumper inside the lane, and Alton Ford was called for his fifth foul as he battle Cam Stephens for the rebound. Stephens missed both of his free throws and Williams grabbed the defensive rebound.

    Houston had one last chance with 17 seconds remaining as Smith drove down the middle of the lane and a blocking foul was called on Brown.

    Smith coolly sank both free throws and Houston had its first lead of the night, 73-72, with four seconds left to play.

    He ended the night having made all 12 of his free throw attempts.

    "I don't remember being 12-of-12 at the free throw line before," Smith said. "I have made 10 straight in a game before, but not 12."

    It was the first time that a Cougar has made all 12 free throws in a game since 1992, and his eight steals are the second-highest single game total in UH and Conference USA history.

    After Smith made his free throws, Houston White to shoot a desperation shot just beyond the free throw line. His shot missed, giving the Cougars the come-from-behind victory.

    Joining Smith in double figures were all three members of Houston's starting front line. Williams scored 16 points, Ford had 12 and Patrick Okafor added 11 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.

    Thomas also scored 23 points to lead the 49ers, but Houston's Marcus Oliver held him to just nine points in the second half as he was made just one of his five field goal attempts after half-time.

    The win snapped Houston's five-game losing streak and improved the Cougars' record to 5-15 overall and 2-6 in Conference USA play. Charlotte fell to 12-9 overall and the 49ers are 4-5 in C-USA games.

    Houston will travel to DePaul on Wednesday night and plays its next home game against Southern Miss on February 14.



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