Aubrey Coleman probably wouldn't mind playing against Marshall more often.
For the second straight season, the nation's leading scorer recorded a season-high in points against the Thundering Herd.
Coleman poured in 13 of his 37 points Saturday during the first 7:30 of the second half to lead the Cougars to an 81-66 win Saturday at Hofheinz Pavilion.
In the first half, UH (11-9, 4-3) combined unyielding defense with an efficient offensive effort to claim a 32-27 halftime advantage. In the second half, Coleman (11-of-23 shooting) took the wheel until the Cougars held a large enough lead to shift into cruise control.
"It was a team effort," head coach Tom Penders said. "I know Aubrey had great numbers, and he's a fabulous player and all that …"
UH came out of the break on a 21-8 run, extending its lead to 53-35 with 12:32 left.
Coleman led the way during this stretch, attacking a Marshall (15-6, 4-3) defense that looked sluggish and overwhelmed. That paved the way for the senior guard to showcase most of his offensive skill set, which included an impressive dunk off a backdoor slash to the basket.
After that Coleman-led charge, Marshall never recovered.
Coleman said Saturday's offensive success started on the defensive end - something that didn't occur enough when he scored a career-high 38 points during an 88-83 loss in Huntington, W. Va. last season.
"We wanted to play defense so we could just run on an open court," Coleman said. "It seemed like (Marshall) didn't have a lot of confidence. They were kind of hesitant."
Interior defense steps up
An active and communicative Cougars defense held C-USA's No. 2 offense to 37.9 percent shooting overall. UH also showed a streak of aggression, utilizing pressure and quick hands to create 12 steals.
"We took advantage of a lot of fast-break opportunities," Penders said. "Most of those (steals) led to buckets. That was important. I think our stat was nine (buckets) out of 12 (steals)."
Penders and his assistant coaches attempted to counter the Herd's distinct size advantage by double-teaming and fronting their forwards. That strategy paid off, as Marshall's leading scorer, Hassan Whiteside, was held to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
"We played an extremely solid game," Penders said. "Defensively, we didn't miss many assignments, which was good, and that sets a tone."
Energetic play from UH's guards, who recorded seven steals in the first half Saturday, allowed it to control the tempo before halftime.
The Cougars took advantage of five Marshall turnovers in the game's first six minutes, building a 10-2 lead. After a quick timeout to make adjustments, the Herd responded with a 7-0 run that closed its deficit to 10-9 with 11:37 remaining in the first half.
But after Whiteside committed his second foul with 11:11 left, point guard Zamal Nixon was ready to attack. Led by his penetration and accurate passing, the Cougars scored 12 of the game's next 14 points to take a 22-11 lead with 8:34 left before halftime.
Two of Marshall's best perimeter shooters, guards Chris Lutz and Damier Pitts, drained consecutive 3s to cut a 29-20 deficit to 29-26 with 3:31 remaining before the break.