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Houston Cougars

1. Fluffin' Ain't Easy. Guess who's scored the most points in a D-I game this year. It's not Michael Beasley, it's not O.J. Mayo, and it sure as hell isn't Tyler "I can't get this look off my face" Hansbrough. No, it's Rob "Fluff" McKiver, who dropped 52 on Southern Miss to break Larry Bird's single-game record of 44 points scored at the Hof. Fluff, the nation's No. 11 scorer, is relishing the opportunity to play under the retired jerseys of some of the game's greats. UH boasts three of the NBA's 50 greatest players, and McKiver is proud to have his name mentioned alongside Otis Birdsong, Elvin Hayes, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Phi Slama Jamma, maybe not, but I'd still bet there aren't a lot of 5- or 6-seeds that want to get "Fluffed," no matter what you may have heard about it.

2. "The Game of the Century". Let's all take a moment to thank Hall of Fame Cougar coach Guy V. Lewis and his signature polka-dotted chewing towel. In 1968, Lewis wanted to prove to the nation that his Cougars could compete with the mighty UCLA Bruins, winners of three of the previous four national titles. The result: the first ever nationally televised regular season game, and what a game it was! More than 52,000 people showed up at the Astrodome to watch John Wooden's squad put its 47-game winning streak on the line against Elvin Hayes and the No. 2 ranked Cougars, who hadn't lost since UCLA beat them in the national semis the year before. Hayes manhandled Lew Alcindor (who scored just 15 points) and dropped 39 and 15 on the defending champs. The Cougars held on to win by 2, but the real winners are the fans who now enjoy the fruit of Lewis' labor: our daily regular-season college basketball fix.


On a sidenote, current UH coach Tom Penders pushed UCLA to schedule a 40th anniversary game on January 20 of this year, but no luck. Maybe decades of watching highlights of a game that your team lost is a little demoralizing (actually, I know it is. Thanks NC State), or maybe Ben Howland's just scared after watching the Cougars abuse Arizona on our home floor last year. Yet turnaround-artist Penders is merely looking to continue his winning ways. After revitalizing programs at Tufts, Columbia, Fordham, Rhode Island, Texas and George Washington, Coach Penders took the Cougars to their first NCAA Tourney since 1992.

3. "Hey! That was my toe!" Shasta, the UH Cougar mascot, wasn't always a college kid wearing a furry outfit and a cheerleader uniform. From 1947 to 1989, five different real-live Shastas roamed the UH campus, ready to munch on unsuspecting freshman and slow-footed professors. Well, actually, they lived in holding pens on campus, not eating anyone at all... or so we're told. Anyway, in case you didn't know, all of the major universities in Texas have a hand-signal which allows alumni to recognize each other and make fun of TCU together. This is the story of UH's hand signal.

In 1953, the Coogs played the University of Texas in football for the first time. On the way to Austin, Shasta's handlers accidentally closed the gate to her cage on her paw, severing one of her toes. When the UT faithful heard what had happened, they taunted the UH fans by holding up their hands with the ring finger and thumb folded in, making fun of poor three-toed Shasta. The Cougars folded as well, losing 28-7. But we did not forget, and we did not forgive. The next time the teams met, the Cougar fans went into the game with Cougar Paws held high in defiance, and fought the Longhorns to a 20-20 tie. Fast forward to the third-ever meeting between the teams in 1976, when the Cougars destroyed UT 30-0 in front of the largest crowd that Memorial Stadium had ever seen, and then went on to win our first SWC championship. That was the real birth of the Cougar Paw as a sign of perseverance and courage. Naturally, it's still going strong today. — Sean Frye

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