The Cougars (2-24, 1-13) put on a clinic in offensive and defensive futility during Thursday’s contest against Rice (14-13, 8-6). Rice never trailed at any point in the game, dominantly winning 68-40.
Rice took control early in the first half and never looked back.
This brings UH’s current losing streak to 12.
Coach Buchanan thought that surprising was not a strong enough adjective to describe the tough loss.
“I was absolutely blown away with our lack of effort to start a basketball game, any basketball game, much less it being Rice, cross town rival, conference rival, in the city rival,” he said.
“It’s just a horrible feeling and I feel like so much of it was so self-inflicted on our inability to show up.”
UH showed signs of life early in the first half, cutting Rice’s lead to 7 at 13-6 when Button sliced through the lane and finished a tough lay-up with 12:51 remaining.
But Rice’s leading scorer, Jessica Kuster, continuously responded by scoring early and often from all areas on the floor. She scored 15 in the first half and paced Rice to a 38-16 halftime lead.
Kuster finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds, both game-highs. Kuster was made a habit of getting to the basketball and was rewarded at the free throw line, attempting eight free throws just in the first half.
“(Kuster) was phenomenal,” Buchannan said. “Great players make great plays.
“She went by us at will and we had no answer for her. It really showed our lack of depth, our lack of athleticism. Nobody could really guard her. Hats off to her.”
The Cougars had a tough time penetrating the Rice defense and were forced to take low-percentage outside shots. UH shot 25 percent from the field. Part of UH’s early-offensive woes was the inability to get senior Roxana Button going offensively. Rice gave her a couple of different looks and played her physically by bumping and trapping her. Button finished with 20 points. Amanda Lawson (14 points) was the only other Cougar in double figures.
Button took personal responsibility for the low output.
“It was a lot of self-made turnovers, just on my part mistakes that I shouldn’t have been making,” she said.
Rice capitalized on UH’s mistakes, scoring 17 points off of turnovers.
UH has struggled all season offensively because they have been encountered a heavy dose of injuries, inexperience and a lack of depth.
The Cougars had five players score, while conversely Rice had 11 players see the ball go in the hoop. The lack of depth hurt UH on a night when Rice’s second leading scorer, Briana Hypolite, had a tough night offensively, scoring three points on 1-9 shooting. The bench gave Rice a huge boost and helped carry the Owls to victory. Rice’s bench outscored the UH bench 37-1.
UH lost the battle in the painted area 26-14 and on the boards as well, 59-38.
Rebounding is an area that Buchannan wants UH to refocus its efforts.
“You have to go back,” Buchannan said. “Take your lunch pale be blue collar, block out, put your butt on somebody, put your body on somebody.
“Rebounding is harder out of a zone at times, but if you’re at your points and you’re talking, its not as difficult as we make it.”