Conference USA - Semifinals
(7) Houston 74, (6) Southern Miss 66
The most exciting show in BOK Center history, the Aubrey Coleman extravaganza, will be back for a Sababo Gigante encore versus UTEP. Coleman score 21 of his 27 points in the final 20 minutes of the game, as Houston steadily pulled away from a dogged Southern Miss squad on its way to a 74-66 “upset” win.
The Big Picture: What more is there to say about the performance of Houston's Aubrey Coleman? The senior guard has played three nearly perfect games of ball in the C-USA tourney. Know that Coleman and the Cougars were the last team – and the only C-USA team – to beat UTEP. Coleman had 22 points, but 5 turnovers, in Houston's 75-65 win back in January. Given his play in the C-USA Tournament, and all season for that matter, there's no reason to think Coleman can't replicate that performance Saturday.
The Good: After not getting to the line at all in the first half, the Cougars were remarkably poised from the free throw line in the second half, making 22-of-27 freebies. Houston went on a game-ending 15-9 spurt, fueled largely by made freebies. Lower seeds that shoot that well from the line always have a chance in March.
The Bad: Southern Miss is what it is: a team that plays ferocious man-to-man defense, but is about as effective on the offensive end as a nice orange juice and milk cocktail is a hangover cure. Other than feeding stalwart forward Gary Flowers a constant diet of rock, the Golden Eagles did almost nothing else right on offense. Perhaps nothing illustrates USM's futility quite so much as the mere 3 dimes dished out in 40 minutes of basketball. We don't have the data in front of us, but we're willing to wager that no team has ever won a game with such an astoundingly paltry number of assists.
The Ugly: There are ways for teams to overcome brilliant individual performances by an opposing player. Misfiring on 62.9 % of your shots in the decisive second half isn't one of those ways. It's no wonder USM was outscored 43-36 in the second half.
The Aubrey Coleman show continues its March run on Saturday. Even the most devoted of Houston Cougars fans didn't see this run to the C-USA championship game coming. Yet, that's where the Cougars find themselves, squaring off with top-seeded UTEP for a chance to go dancing. At this point, who would really doubt Houston's chances of winning? Aubrey Coleman has been the best player in the C-USA tourney, and the Cougars were the last team to beat UTEP. It's March and the C-USA tourney has been rife with madness.