Cougars fall to Panthers after struggle in first half
The Cougars hosted in-state rival Prairie View A&M (2-6) Sunday afternoon in a game that came down to the wire.
Houston struggled early, taking a 13-point deficit into the half. UH rallied later in the game but fell short, losing 56-61. The Cougars sit at 3-4 overall this season.
The Cougars jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening minutes with a pair of free-throws and a jump shot by junior guard Alicia Smith. As the Panthers cut the lead down with a three pointer, the game hit an offensive lull with neither team able to find the basket for more than four minutes.
Prairie View was able to jump into action before the Cougars did and quickly gained a 9-4 lead. Points were hard to come by for Houston in the first half, and the team connected on only five of 23 attempts and went 0-4 on three-point shots.
“In the first half we came out and played selfishly,” Smith acknowledged. “We didn’t share the ball like we’re used to. We didn’t trust the process.”
Head coach Ronald Hughey agreed with Smith’s analysis of the game.
“We were not attacking to create something for anyone else,” said Hughey. “We were looking for our own shot.”
On defense, the Cougars were dominated in the paint, giving up 14 points. Outside, Houston didn’t fare much better, as Prairie View was able to assault with three-point shots, going for 50 percent.
Trailing 17-30 at intermission, Hughey had to make adjustments in order to slow down the pace of the Panthers’ offense.
“With the flow of the game, sometimes it’s hard to get them to understand what’s going on,” Hughey said of his team’s first half. “But they had the chance to get refocused in the locker room and we had the chance to talk to them about those critical details that were missing.”
The team adjusted by switching to more zone schemes on defense. It paid off, and the Cougars held Prairie View to just eight field goals and a 24.2 shooting percentage in the second half.
With the Cougars clamping down defensively, they ran off a 16-5 run to give them a 46-45 lead with 5:49 remaining.
Two free throws from Smith regained a slim lead for Houston despite strong Prairie View defense with 2:51 left in the game, but Prairie View scored the next six points to pull ahead.
“You can’t give up critical rebounds in the last four minutes of the game or have critical turnovers in the last minute or two of the game,” Hughey said. “It’s just simply that you can’t win with.”
Junior guard Jessieka Palmer led the team with 14 points and a career-best nine rebounds. She has now scored in the double-digits six straight games and leads Houston with 13.0 points per game.
The Cougars will be back on the court Saturday, Dec. 13 as the team is set to face Texas A&M (9-0) in College Station.