Men's Basketball Opens C-USA Championship vs. UTEP

Senior guard Darian Thibodeaux is congratulated by freshman forward TaShawn Thomas following Saturday's win at Rice.

March 5, 2012

(9) HOUSTON COUGARS (15-14 • 7-9 C-USA)
vs. (8) UTEP MINERS (14-16 • 7-9 C-USA)
 Time  6:30 p.m. • Wednesday, March 7, 2012
 Location  FedExForum (18,400) • Memphis, Tenn.
 Bracket  Championship Bracket
 Radio  Live Audio Streaming
 SportsTalk 790 • Houston IMG Sports Network
 Tom Franklin, PxP • Elvin Hayes, analyst
 Broadcast begins at 6:15 p.m.
 Television  Live Video Streaming
 Matt Stewart, PxP • Shane Power, analyst
 Houston Comcast channel 129
 Live Stats  GameTracker
 Series History  UTEP leads 13-9
 Houston won last • UTEP won three of last four
 Last Meeting  Houston won 81-76 (OT)
 Jan. 28, 2012 • Hofheinz Pavilion • Houston
 Last Meeting
 at C-USA
 Houston won 81-73
 C-USA Championship Title Game
 March 13, 2012 • BOK Center • Tulsa, Okla.
 Game Notes  Houston Notes Get Acrobat Reader
 UTEP Notes Get Acrobat Reader
 Conference USA Notebook Get Acrobat Reader
 Social Media   FacebookTwitter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Fresh off a thrilling come-from-behind win, the University of Houston men's basketball team opens its postseason schedule when it faces No. 8 seed UTEP at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, during the First Round of the Conference USA Championship in FedExForum.

The Cougars, who enter the tournament as one of the league's hottest teams with wins in four of their last five games, surge into the postseason on a wave of momentum. In their most recent action, the Cougars claimed a 76-75 win at crosstown rival Rice on Saturday during the regular-season finale for both teams.

Although Houston led for most of the game, Rice rallied and took a 2-point lead with just 16 seconds to go. After working the game clock down, junior guard Jonathon Simmons drove to the basket and was fouled with 5.2 seconds remaining.

After missing his first attempt, Simmons nailed his second try to move the Cougars to within 75-74. On the ensuing inbounds, Rice threw the ball in but guard Connor Frizzelle stumbled after receiving the pass and went to the ground.

Conferring with one another and reviewing video, officials ruled that Frizzelle called timeout in the scuffle for the ball. However, Rice did not have any timeouts remaining, resulting in a technical foul.

Head coach James Dickey picked guard Darian Thibodeaux to shoot the free throws, and the Cougars' lone senior answered. The Dallas native calmly sank both attempts to give the Cougars the lead for good. A Rice desperation attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.

With career-highs of 21 points and five 3-pointers against the Owls, Thibodeaux became the fifth different Cougar to score 20 points in game this season, joining Simmons, junior forward Kirk Van Slyke, sophomore forward Alandise Harris and redshirt freshman guard Joseph Young.

With that win, the Cougars moved into a tie for eighth place in the final league standings with UTEP. However, the Miners claimed the higher seed due their win against No. 1 seed Memphis earlier this season.

This season, Simmons leads the Cougars with 14.9 points per game and ranks among the league leaders in field goal percentage. The Houston native and Smiley High product also tops the team with seven 20-point games this year.

Harris ranks second on the team with 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Young stands third with 11.4 points per contest. Young also ranks among the league's leaders in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point field goals made per game.

Freshman forward TaShawn Thomas leads the Cougars with 8.1 rebounds per game and eight double-doubles this season. The Killeen, Texas, native also ranks among the C-USA individual leaders in field goal percentage and blocks.

Fans can hear Wednesday's game live on SportsTalk 790 AM with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Cougar legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes providing analysis. The pregame show is slated to begin at 6:15 p.m., Wednesday.

Fans also can watch the game live on CSS with Matt Stewart as the play-by-play announcer and Shane Power as analyst. The game can be seen live in Houston on Comcast Channel 129.

Fans can see and hear the audio and video streams live at UHCougars.com by clicking the All-Access tab and following the appropriate links to sign up for Cougar All-Access. A charge is required to hear games via Cougar All-Access.

With a win against No. 8 seed UTEP in the First Round, the Cougars will face No. 1 seed, regular-season champion and host Memphis at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, at FedExForum.

That game will be shown live on CBS Sports Network. The winner of that game advances to the C-USA Championship Semifinals on Friday.

With a loss to UTEP, the Cougars must wait to learn their postseason fate.

UTEP owns a 14-16 overall record and is tied with the Cougars for eighth place in Conference USA with a 7-9 mark. The Miners earned the higher seed with its win against Memphis earlier this season.

UTEP is 3-11 away from El Paso this season. That breaks down as 1-10 on the road and 2-1 at neutral site.

In its most recent action, UTEP dropped a 57-48 decision at SMU in Dallas in the regular-season finale for both teams. That was the Miners' third straight loss to end the regular season after winning four consecutive games.

Against the Mustangs, forward Julian Washburn scored 21 points with a pair of 3-pointers. No other Miner scored more than six points in the loss. Forward Gabriel McCulley led the team with six rebounds, while C.J. Cooper and D'Von Campbell added two assists apiece.

This season, Washburn is one of four Miners to average 11.0 points per game or more. Washburn leads the team with 11.5 points per game, while McCulley ranks second with 11.2 points per game. John Bohannon stands third with 11.2 points per game but averages a team-best 7.3 rebounds per contest. Perez ranks fourth with 11.0 points per game with Jacques Streeter adding a team-high 4.6 assists per game.

Head coach Tim Floyd is in his second season at UTEP and his 18th year overall. He has compiled a 367-205 career record and a 39-25 record with the Miners.

Floyd is 3-1 against the Cougars with all games coming during his UTEP tenure. Wednesday's game will be the first time he has faced Houston at the Conference USA Championship.

Floyd, who is a 1977 graduate of Louisiana Tech, previously served as the head coach at Idaho (1986-88), New Orleans (1988-94), Iowa State (1994-98) and USC (2005-09).

This is the seventh straight season that these two teams have met on the hardwood.

It also is the third meeting this season with each team winning on its home court. UTEP claimed a 70-50 win in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 7 in the second game of the C-USA season. Houston rebounded with an 81-76 win in overtime inside Hofheinz Pavilion on Jan. 28.

UTEP owns a 13-9 lead in the all-time series, which began Dec. 28, 1979. The series has been played at least once every season since the 2005-06 campaign when UTEP joined Conference USA.

The Cougars are 2-1 all-time against UTEP on a neutral site with all of the previous meetings coming at the Conference USA Championship.

For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Cougars will face UTEP at Conference USA's postseason tournament. The Cougars are 2-1 all-time against the Miners at the C-USA Championship. Houston also is 1-1 against UTEP at the C-USA Championship in FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.

In the most recent C-USA Championship meeting, the Cougars earned an 81-73 win against the 21st-ranked Miners to win the program's first C-USA Tournament title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades. That contest was played at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

In earlier meetings, the Cougars posted an 89-85 win in the Quarterfinals on March 12, 2009, in FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn. UTEP knocked off the No. 3 seed Cougars 80-77 on March 13, 2008, in the first meeting at the C-USA Championship at FedExForum.



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