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Cougars Beat UTEP For Second Straight Win

Jonathon Simmons led all scorers with 25 points as Houston closed within a game of .500 in C-USA play.

If you're optimistic, you look at a wide-open Conference USA race, and think that the Cougars have enough talent to make a run in the conference tournament if they get hot at the right time. If you're not, you can still look at the presence of just one senior on this year's squad, the highly-touted recruiting class and big-time transfer set to come in next year, and just want to see this year's Cougar squad start building towards next year.

Either way, after a painful four-game losing streak in C-USA play, a pair of wins is a sight for sore eyes, even if both games did come down to the wire..

On Saturday night, in front of one of the best crowds of the year (yes, that's a very relative statement), the Cougars fought back from a double-digit deficit in regulation to tie the game at 66. It appeared as if UTEP would escape with the win when Miner C.J. Cooper drained what appeared to be a buzzer-beating three. But on further review, the ball did not leave Cooper's hand until after the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

Once again, the Cougars fell behind quickly, not taking their first overtime lead until a Jonathon Simmons and-one with 34 seconds remaining. On UTEP's following possession, a very close block/charge call went Houston's way, with freshman TaShawn Thomas drawing the foul. Alandise Harris (a 67% shooter from the line) would be fouled and connect on both free throws, extending the Cougar lead to three. The Miners's subsequent three-pointer missed, and UH got its second straight home win.

The Cougars now stand at 3-4 in conference play, and have an opportunity to keep moving up the standings and improving their seeding come conference tournament time. They hit the road for their next two games, but both opponents (UAB and Tulane) stand at just 2-5 in conference play. After the two roadies, the Coogs host a talented Rice team, before playing three straight games against teams who currently sit in the top third of the conference standings.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.