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Basketball

The Breakdown: Houston @ Iowa State

The Iowa State (9-3) men’s basketball team will end an 11-day “vacation” on Sunday when the Houston Cougars (7-5) come to town. The Cyclones have won three basketball games in a row. Houston is struggling right now, after dropping two straight. Will the Cyclones enter Wednesday’s showdown with Duke on a winning note?

Let’s break this thing down.

Breaking down the Cougars The first thing that an Iowa State fan needs to know about the Houston Cougars is that this team scores a lot of points, on a consistent basis. The Cougars average 86.3 points per game. That number ranks them seventh nationally in scoring as a team.

Houston’s best player, senior guard Aubrey Coleman, is the nation’s second-leading scorer, averaging 25.3 points per game. Coleman also leads the nation in steals, averaging 3.3 per game. When Iowa State won at Houston just a season ago, Coleman scored 28 points while stealing the basketball five times from the Cyclones. Obviously, containing Coleman will be one giant key for Greg McDermott’s team in this game.

It doesn’t end there with scoring though. Enter senior guard Kelvin Lewis into the conversation. Lewis averages 18.4 points per game and is the nation’s leading 3-point shooter, making 4.3 bombs a game. His percentage from behind the arc is 46.6.

Houston started off the season with a big upset over Oklahoma on Nov. 26 in the Great Alaska Shootout. Considering the fact that the Sooners have lost to a couple other mid-majors too, the win is a little less impressive. However, it still has to be eye opening for Cyclone fans entering Sunday’s game. Houston is a talented basketball team that can play with just about anybody on a given day.

The Cougars have struggled as of late though. This team has two games in a row, to Louisiana Tech and UTSA.

Houston’s probable starting lineup (according to Cyclones.com) Maurice McNeil: 6-9, 215-pound Jr. F – 6.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG Adam Brown: 6-4, 175-pound Jr. G – 13.3 PPG Kelvin Lewis: 6-4, 195-pound Sr. G – 18.4 PPG Aubrey Coleman: 6-4, 200-pound Sr. G – 25.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG Desmond Wade: 5-8, 150-pound So. G – 7.3 PPG, 5.9 APG

Breaking down the Cyclones As mentioned above, Iowa State hasn’t played a basketball game in 11 days. If that’s a good or bad thing will be determined upon the 1 p.m. tip time in Hilton Coliseum. Iowa State better have fresh legs though because the Houston Cougars love to run, which could play right into the hands of this athletic group of Cyclones.

Craig Brackins scored 38-points when Iowa State won at Houston last season. One wouldn’t anticipate quite a large number this time around with the addition of Marquis Gilstrap, but the play of that duo will ultimately dictate the outcome in this one. Iowa State has a distinct frontcourt advantage heading into this game and I expect Greg McDermott to attempt to exploit that early and often against the Cougars.

I also expect to see LaRon Dendy to see more playing time for a couple of reasons. The first is that he’s an athletic alternative to Justin Hamilton, who doesn’t match-up well for Iowa State in a game like this. The second is that with this recent time off, Dendy’s injured knee will be that much better. It needs to be for Iowa State to have success against their brutal schedule for the rest of the year.

You need to know that…

– Houston’s coach, Tom Penders is 1-2 during his 36-season career against Iowa State. Penders coached at Texas from 1989-98.

– Iowa State is 13-9 all-time against teams from Conference USA.

– Houston leads Iowa State heading into the schools sixth meeting 3-2.

– In Iowa State’s nine wins this season, the Cyclones have won by double-digits in every single one of them.

Prediction

This has the chance to be one of the most exciting non-conference games on Iowa State’s schedule this season. These two teams are going to run, run, and run some more.

Houston is a scary basketball team to play, only because they are so talented. But Internet clippings about this squad lead me to think that they are also undisciplined, which is surprising considering who their coach is.

It’s all going to come down to how Iowa State practiced over the course of the last week. Rumor has it, practices have been very difficult and that the Cyclones were worked hard.

They’re all big from here on out for this team. I think that Iowa State will win this game, but they’ll need to do it in the second half. I think that Houston will hang around for at least 30 minutes, with the Cyclones securing another victory heading into Wednesday’s showdown with the Blue Devils.

The Pick

Iowa State 88, Houston 81

C

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