Friday, December 16, 2011

Houston Cougars Men’s Basketball Back in Action after Break

Cougars set to meet Oklahoma at 7 p.m., Saturday, at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City

HOUSTON, TEXAS (December 16, 2011) After more than 10 days off from competition, the University of Houston men’s basketball team returns to action at 7 p.m., Saturday, when it meets Oklahoma inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Between the Cougars’ final examinations and a request from UTSA administrators to postpone a game earlier this month, Houston has not seen action since a tough 81-78 loss at Texas State on Dec. 6. It was the Cougars’ fourth loss this season by a combined seven points.

Against the Bobcats, junior guard junior guard Jonathon Simmons posted a career-high points total and freshman forward TaShawn Thomas finished with a double-double – each for the second straight game – to lead the Cougars.

The Cougars trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half before chipping away at the deficit. Houston moved to within two points with just more than a remaining but was unable to tie the score.

Sophomore forward Alandise Harris and freshman point guard J.J. Thompson each posted 11 points for the Cougars.

This season, Harris leads the Cougars and ranks fourth in Conference USA with 16.0 points per game. Simmons is averaging 24.0 points in Houston’s last two games and moved into second among the Cougars with 13.6 points per contest. Junior forward Kirk Van Slyke stands third with 11.6 points per, game, while Thomas ranks fourth with 10.4 points per game and a team-high 8.8 rebounds per contest.

Houston is no stranger to the RAMADA All-College Classic. The Cougars are 9-6 all-time at this event, and the 2011 appearance will be the sixth time that the Cougars have competed here.

However, this is the first time since Dec. 27-29, 1973, that the Cougars will take part in this tournament. It also will be the first time that the Cougars have faced Oklahoma at this event.

The Cougars went 1-2 in their first appearance at the RAMADA All-College Classic and followed that with 2-1 showings in 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1974.

Saturday’s game will be the third meeting in the all-time series against the Sooners with the previous games being played during regular-season tournament play.

Despite its brief history, the series has been a tight one with no game being decided by more than seven points.

This will be the second time in the last three years that the Cougars will face Oklahoma on the hardwood. In the last meeting, the Cougars took a 100-93 win during the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 26, 2009, in Anchorage, Alaska.

In the only other meeting, Oklahoma snared a 55-51 win on Dec. 15, 1960, during the Cougars’ own Lion’s Club Tournament at Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston.

Oklahoma brings a 7-1 overall record into this weekend’s game. The Sooners have won their last three games.. The Sooners have won handily in 2011-12, winning by an average of 15.1 points per game.

In their most recent win, Oklahoma took a 78-63 win against Arkansas on Dec. 10 in Norman, Okla. Against the Razorbacks, the Sooners raced out to a 12-point halftime lead. Steven Pledger led OU with 22 points, while forward Andrew Fitzgerald added 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Tyler Neal came off the bench to post 18 points and five boards, and Romero Osby totaled 10 points and seven rebounds in the win.

This season, Pledger leads the Sooners with 17.9 points per game, while Calvin Newell ranks second with 13.0 points per contest. Andrew Fitzgerald stands third at 11.0 ppg, and Osby ranks fourth with 10.6 points per game but averages a team-high 7.5 rebounds per contest.

Head coach Lon Kruger is in his first year at Oklahoma and has posted a 7-1 record. He is in his 26th year overall as a head coach and has posted a 486-305 record during that time.

Kruger previously served as head coach at UT Pan American (1982-86), Kansas State (1986-90), Florida (1990-96), Illinois (1996-00), with the Atlanta Hawks (2000-03) and UNLV (2004-11). He is 2-0 against the Cougars during his career with both wins coming during his tenure at UNLV.

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