Before basketball season began, head coach James Dickey preached physicality and toughness, something sophomore guard J.J. Thompson said they lacked in their contest with Texas A&M on Saturday.
Dickey said he wanted his team to play better defense and crash the boards. He said a proficiency in both is key to a successful season.
“Overall, I want us to be a tougher basketball team — mentally and physically,” Dickey said before the season. “(Toughness) is just something we stress everyday.”
The Aggies’ persistence led them to a 18-point halftime lead and allowed them to win at Hofheinz Pavilion 70-59 on Saturday.
“They were just tougher than us,” Thompson said. “Throughout the whole night, they were tougher and played harder.”
The difference between winning and losing came down to the first half, Dickey said. The Cougars’ turnovers and Texas A&M’s production on the boards was too much to overcome.
The Cougars had less rebounds (40-26) in the game but it was a pattern that continued from the first half (21-10).
UH has had more rebounds than its opponents (296-263), winning the rebound battle by five per game this season. The Cougars have also held opponents to 41 percent shooting as a defense, but had a tough time defending the Aggies as a team in the first half.
Especially Aggie senior forward Elston Turner, who they struggled defending in both halves. He scored 26 points, tying a career-high. Texas A&M’s sophomore forward Kourtney Roberson and senior forward Ray Turner both scored 14 points.
“They hit us in the mouth and we responded way too late,” said freshman forward Danuel House.
On the defensive end, UH didn’t fare well in the first half and Texas A&M shot 61 percent from the field.
The second half was a different story when the Cougars outplayed the Aggies and outscored them 34-28. The team fed off the crowd and Hofheinz appeared louder than it has been at any point this season.
“We played more like a team I recognized in the second half,” Dickey said.
The Cougars played better defense too, holding the Aggies to 35 percent shooting in the second half, but it was too late.
The deficit was too large to overcome despite a positive showing in the second half. UH got better production on offense by executing more precisely, Dickey said. The Cougars got sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas and senior forward Leon Gibson more touches inside the paint and stopped settling for jump shots.
The Cougars need to get on the boards to have a better chance at winning, Dickey said.
“We’ve got to go get more offensive rebounds, got to go to the glass more. Rebounding is something we work on every day and we will continue to do that,” Dickey said.