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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Men's Basketball

Cardiac Coogs claw back

Junior forward J.J. Richardson, the only Cougar with NCAA tournament experience, leads a sideline celebration after a first-half shot.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Junior forward J.J. Richardson, the only Cougar with NCAA tournament experience, leads a sideline celebration after a first-half shot. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

The crowd ignited when redshirt sophomore guard Joe Young found freshman forward Danuel House for an alley-oop on the Cougars’ first possession in their first trip back to the postseason since the 2010 NCAA tournament.

The fans ended the game cheering as UH pulled off a 73-72 victory against former rival Texas in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at Hofheinz Pavilion on Wednesday.

Young carried the ball upcourt as time expired in the second half, jubilantly tossing up the game ball as the final buzzer sounded, a postseason winner for the first time in his career, and UH’s first postseason win since defeating Valparaiso in the 2008 College Basketball Invitational.

Young and his teammates jumped into the stands and celebrated with a packed student section. Young scored a team-high 18 points and was named player of the game.

The final seconds were tense, but House showed everyone in attendance why he was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year when he calmly sank an open jumper from the elbow to put the Cougars up 73-72 with 11 seconds left in play as the crowd showered him with their approval.

Texas sophomore guard Julien Lewis had the ball in his hands as time wound down. His ninth miss and 19th shot of the game hit front rim, and Texas couldn’t corral the rebound.

The missed shot rolled around the floor as the clock neared zero, and Young came up with the ball, setting off a celebration at Hofheinz.

Both halves ended well for the Cougars.

Young buried a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to give UH back a 6-point lead to end the half.

The Cougars’ scored their first 12 points of the game in the paint and took their biggest lead of the first half when Young put back a miss — capping off a 14-4 run to take a 22-11 lead.

UT struggled shooting from long distance in the first half — going 3-16 in the first half, but were able to cut into the lead at 34-31 with less than a minute left in the first half.

After starting the half with a 6-point lead, the Cougars gave it all up and then some when Texas scored 7 unanswered. UH didn’t score until sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas sinked a jumper from the elbow, bringing the score to39-38, after the team missed both free throws from a flagrant foul call on freshman forward Connor Lammert.

With two ties and 12 lead changes, the game was tight throughout the second half. House gave the crowd a reason to get on their feet with a raucous slam that put UH up 41-40.

Thomas gave them another reason to cheer when he put back an offensive rebound to regain a 1-point lead for UH with 13 minutes remaining in the game.

The game continued to be back and forward.

Texas freshman forward Prince Ibeh recorded his game-high fifth block on redshirt junior forward J.J. Richardson, leading to a Lewis fastbreak to give Texas the one-point lead, 46-45.

Lewis would follow the coast-to-coast layup with a 3-pointer to put Texas up 49-47, and with sophomore guard Myck Kabongo hitting two free throws out of the timeout, the Longhorns took a 51-47 lead, quieting the home crowd.

But not for long.

Young got the hometown back on its feet with an NBA-range 3-pointer, but Lewis, who led the Longhorns with 25 points on 10-19 shooting and 3-6 from distance, immediately hit a 3-pointer to answer.

Head coach James Dickey said he would be willing to continue this rivalry, and that makes sense after this win.

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