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The Layup Line: Houston Part 2

Both teams have had plenty of rest this week. Is there a chance the Cougars keep it close in Cincinnati?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

You don't get ranked in the top ten on back-to-back weeks without dealing with some form of adversity during the season. Do you remember what happened the last time the Cincinnati Bearcats lost a game? They rattled off 15 wins in a row.

I'm guessing that won't happen again this year, but there's obviously plenty of reason to be excited about this team - despite their 21 point loss a week ago.

The Houston Cougars (12-12) come to town fresh off a victory over Temple. A victory they're labeling as "impressive" all over the official UH athletics website. Okay then...

  • Game: Saturday, February 15, 2014; 3:00pm EST
  • Location: Fifth Third Arena/Shoemaker Center; Cincinnati, OH
  • TV/Radio:ESPNU; 700 WLW

If beating Temple is "impressive," then upsetting the Bearcats in Cincinnati would be "preposterous." In order to do that, the guy I harped on in my last Cougar preview will need a monster game: TaShawn Thomas (#35).

Yes, Cincinnati escaped Houston last January with a one-point victory (after leading by 19 in the 2nd half), but beating the Bearcats in Fifth Third is a monumental task for the Cougars. The Bearcats haven't lost at home yet this year, and it looks like it'll be a packed house:

Looking at their previous meeting, TaShawn Thomas only scored 10 points but grabbed 9 rebounds. If Thomas goes for more than his average of 16.2 points, I'll be a somewhat worried.

Sophomore guard Jherrod Stiggers (#21) is starting to come into his own, too. Over his last two games, he's still coming off the bench, but he's averaging 17 points a game on 50% shooting from beyond the arc.

And in "things that make you say wha?!?!?" - it's illegal to sell Limburger cheese on Sundays in Houston. I don't even like Limburger cheese, but that's absurd. Especially in Texas. 'Merica.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

  • Slow Down Thomas. They don't have to completely stop him, but holding him under 16 & 10 would be helpful. Only one other Cougar averages more than 5 rebounds a game, so if you slow down Thomas, Cincinnati should control the glass.
  • Find a 3rd Scorer. This might be the theme going forward. We know what Kilpatrick and Jackson will give the Bearcats each game. Someone (paging Thomas and Sanders; Thomas and Sanders, your table is ready) needs to step up on offense on a consistent basis.
  • Avoid Blocked Shots. On average, the Cougars block more shots a game than the Bearcats. And it's mainly that guy again - TaShawn Thomas.
My prediction: Look, Houston is in the bottom half of the league in scoring offense and scoring defense, and the 'Cats are favored by double digits. They have three incredibly tough seniors that won't let last weekend's loss seep into this next game. It might not be the prettiest thing, but the Bearcats will take it to Houston: 69-59