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Scouting Houston

After going nearly three months without winning more than two games in a row, Houston reeled off four straight wins in the Conference USA tournament last weekend in Tulsa, Okla. and ultimately defeated Texas-El Paso in the title game to claim its first NCAA tournament berth since 1992.

Sixth-year Coach Tom Penders runs an up-tempo, free-styling offense centered around senior guard Aubrey Coleman (6-foot-4, 200 lbs.), who leads the nation in scoring (25.6 points per game). Coleman attempted 697 shots this season. The next most prolific shot taker on the Cougars roster is fellow senior guard Kelvin Lewis. Coleman is shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three-point range.

Coleman can score in a variety of ways. He is the team's leading defensive rebounder, and he frequently will initiate (and finish) the fast break. He also is a capable offensive rebounder and can score on put-backs due to his strength and good hands. Coleman is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game.

Lewis (6-foot-4, 195 lbs.) is the only other Houston player that will have plays run specifically to get him shots. He is averaging 15.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 41.4 percent from the field. Lewis is Houston's primary three-point shooter, and he made 39.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season.

Coleman and Lewis play large roles on the defensive end as well. Houston owns a +7.8 turnover margin and averages 9.5 steals per game. Coleman (2.7 spg) and Lewis (1.8 spg) represent Houston's best on-the-ball defenders.

As for the team's overall defensive strategy, well, it doesn't appear to have one. Houston has operated in an array of defensive alignments this season and has yet to stick to one. Seemingly from night to night, Houston altered its defensive scheme. The Cougars have gone zone and they've gone man. They tried the triangle-and-2, as well as the box-and-1. THere's not telling what they'll throw at Maryland on Friday night.

Rounding out Houston's starting backcourt is sophomore guard Desmond Wade (5-foot-8, 150 lbs.). He is averaging 5.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. He owns a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio and is a large reason why the Cougars average only 9.1 turnovers per game. Wade averages 4.9 assists per game and shoots 40.1 percent from the field.

Houston's starting frontline consists of freshman forward Kendrick Washington (6-foot-7, 270 lbs.) and senior forward Sean Coleman (6-foot-8, 215 lbs.). Washington averages 4.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.5 percent from the field. Sean Coleman averages 3.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.3 percent from the field.

With a rebounding margin of -8.1, it would seem Houston is not a very strong squad on the boards.

Off the bench, the Cougars can bring in junior forward Maurice McNeil (6-foot-9, 215 lbs.) and freshman forward Kirk Van Slyke (6-foot-9, 215 lbs.). McNeil, the team's third-leading scorer, is averaging 8.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He is shooting 45.2 percent from the field and has tallied a team-high 37 blocks. Van Slyke is averaging 3.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.6 percent from the field.

Spelling Houston's backcourt are junior guards Adam Brown (6-foot-4, 175 lbs.) and Zamal Nixon (6-foot-1, 170 lbs.). Brown averages 7.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from three-point range. Nixon is averaging 5.8 points and 1.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 39.3 percent from the field.

As a team, the Cougars are shooting 42.0 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from three-point range and 71.3 percent from the free throw line.

By Steve Yanda  |  March 15, 2010; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: A coach's view on the Cougars

Comments

It sounds like Sean Mosely will be pivotal to Maryland succeeding. He will likely draw the guard against Coleman. I would expect the box and 1 against Vasquez, which will mean big nights for Milbourne and Hayes.

I hope the Terps do not overlook this team, but I do not think they should have much trouble with them. They did ok against Stef Curry a few years ago, so they should be able to handle the NCAA's leading scorer again.

Posted by: Russtinator | March 15, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I used to be a college basketball fan, a long time ago when I was a graduate student at Michigan State, but I'm not much of a fan now, mainly because it seems as though nearly every game that interests me is decided in the last five minutes, which is when I tend to tune in if the game is available on regular broadcast TV. But I do have some interest in the Terps because I spend a lot of time on the UMCP campus as an independent library researcher. Anyhow, I've watched several Terps games recently and I was wondering why they tend to fall behind, sometimes way behind, in the first half of games, and then have to come from behind in the second half. This cost them the Georgia Tech. ACC game, and made several games that they won much closer than they should have been, including a game that it took two overtimes to win. Does Gary Williams have a deliberate policy of taking it easy during the first half and then putting all the emphasis on the second half?

Posted by: seltzer1 | March 15, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

seltzer -

I think that is a valid point for the last five or so games of the season. Prior to the Duke loss, the team was playing beautiful basketball for 40 minutes a game, blowing out teams. Even in the loss to Wake, the team played great ball for the entire game before falling in overtime. GW is a coach who brings out intensity in the team. That level of intensity is hard to maintain for a full game. Additionally, for the last five games or so, LM disappeared as a scorer as did Moseley for a few games - as JW emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

This team is capable of firing on all cylinders and blowing opposing teams out - they did that quite a bit this year (not just against non-conference patsies) which is the board was (to varying degrees - cautiously) optimistic at the midpoint of the ACC season when the Terps were 6-2.

Certainly on GW's part there is no deliberate policy of taking anything easy ever in any basketball game. But these are kids he is coaching. I honestly believe that GV and EH never take a second off during a game. With LM and SM, they contribute even when they aren't scoring. Additionally, DG's entire game is about energy. Sometimes, for instance against GTech, the shots just don't fall. GT wanted and NEEDED the win more than MD and with all of our shooting issues, struggles to pull out the win. This MD team does seem to play too comfortably with its back against the wall in recent games. Think our seniors won't let the team come out flat at the dance. Welcome to the board.

Regards -

-hgr

Posted by: HughGRection | March 15, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

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