GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars look to bounce back as they stay on the road for a Conference USA bout with the East Carolina Pirates at Minges Coliseum.
History is on Houston's side heading into this one. It holds a 9-3 all-time series lead over the Pirates after its 82-76 win on Jan. 21, 2012 in the most recent collision on the hardwood. Baring a meeting in the C-USA Tournament, this will be the only time these squads tangle this season.
After losing by 12 points to Texas A&M on Dec. 1, the Cougars reeled off seven consecutive victories including a 78-67 decision over SMU in their league opener. The streak was snapped on Saturday with a 73-54 loss to Southern Miss, but Houston's run has helped it build a 12-3 overall record. Coach James Dickey's squad has used a potent offensive attack to pick up decisions and it is outscoring its opposition by an average margin of 10.5 points per game, which is the second best mark in the league.
ECU may not have great history against Houston, but it has some momentum after its thrilling 88-85 overtime win over UCF on Saturday. The victory improved the Pirates to a 10-5 overall record including a 1-1 standing in C-USA play. Since beginning the season with five consecutive wins, coach Jeff Lebo's unit has alternated losses with wins in its previous 10 outings. While Houston comes in with a very explosive offensive attack that ranks second in the conference at 78.0 ppg, ECU is just a shade better with 78.1 points per outing. The inside-outside duo of Maurice Kemp and Miguel Paul as been the engine to the Pirates' ship.
The Cougars' ability to fill it up was not apparent in their last appearance as they shot just 33.3 percent from the field including a dismal 4-of-25 from beyond the arc versus USM. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles sank 47.7 percent of their shots from the floor. Joseph Young went just 1-of-8 from distance on his way to a team-best 14 points and TaShawn Thomas added 10 points. Despite his no show in Hattiesburg, Young is having a solid season overall and ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 17.4 ppg. Thomas will garner all-conference accolades if he continues to provide his near double-double average of 16.4 points and 9.7 boards per outing. Danuel House is also a serviceable contributor for Houston with 12.9 ppg. The x-factor for the unit is Leon Gibson, who provides 6.6 rebounds per outing and is knocking down a deadly 57.1 percent of his shots from deep.
ECU could not have been more balanced in its win over the Knights. Paul, Kemp, Shamarr Bowden, and Ty Armstrong all tallied 16 points each before Corvonn Gaines knocked down a shot, his only attempt of the contest, from beyond the arc with three seconds left in overtime to lift the team to the victory. Kemp is having a very productive senior campaign with 17.5 points and 8.3 boards per outing while Paul's point guard play is yielding 12.2 points and the second-best assist average in the C-USA (5.5). Robert Sampson is also a force on the inside with averages of 10.0 points and 9.1 rebounds.
The Cougars are capable of winning at Minges, but their shooting touch must return for that to occur. The odds of Houston's offense getting into rhythm are high, as ECU is a very poor team defensively. While both sides should be able to generate points, rebounding will be a factor as possessions will be vital.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 82, East Carolina 80
01/16 10:46:49 ET
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