(LaMarcus Aldridge — 19 points, 15 of them in the second half against ‘Nova)

While Rick Barnes’ Texas squadcan bask in the achievment of their 6th straight win (and 2nd consecutive over a Top 5 opponent) with yesterday’s 59-55 dispatch of Villanova, former Longhorns coach Tom Penders (last seen in this space being linked way out of context) has to explain the 2nd poor conference showing this week by his Cougars. From the Houston Chronicle’s Michael Murphy.

Before the season, fans of the Houston Cougars were promised “The Show.” But no one told them it was going to be The Twilight Zone.

The Cougars dropped to 0-2 in Conference USA after Saturday’s 66-56 loss to Central Florida at Hofheinz Pavilion, and this one was far more baffling than Wednesday’s loss at Rice.

At least the Rice game could be explained away because of the city rivalry. But losing to Central Florida is incomprehensible. The Golden Knights entered Saturday’s game with losses in five of their last six games ” a string that included the likes of Birmingham-Southern and Western Kentucky ” and had not won a game on the road. Until Saturday.

The Golden Knights moved the ball to the open man (18 assists), which is why they shot 50 percent from the floor (22-of-44); they hit their free throws (13 of 18, 72 percent); crashed the boards (outrebounding the Cougars 42-33); and they judiciously used the 3-point line (9-of-19, 47.4 percent).

The Cougars? First of all, they guarded center Anthony Williams (above) like someone owed him money. Williams, who came into the game averaging 7.8 points, matched that in the first five minutes of the game and finished with a season-high 25 points, adding nine rebounds.

And despite a scouting report that included a breakdown of Central Florida shooting guard Justin Rose’s rebounding ability, the Cougars allowed the 6-3 jumping jack to finish with a season-high 14 rebounds, double what the nearest Cougar had (Ramon Dyer’s seven).

The Cougars’ ineptness at the foul line has become a bad joke that keeps getting told. It has reached the point that when a foul was called on Central Florida with 6:35 to play, Penders begged the referees for a player-control foul, which would give the Cougars the ball rather than two foul shots.

“We don’t want to shoot a free throw,” Penders told the ref.

With good reason, too, because the Cougars made only half of their 20 attempts.