Men's Basketball

Record night for Knowles in Cougars’ loss to Tulane

The University of Houston men’s basketball team was unable to snap their losing streak, falling 68-65 to the Tulane Green Wave Saturday afternoon at Hofheinz Pavilion.


Despite the Cougars having a rough start, sophomore forward Danrad Knowles hit a career-high 31 points after going 11-of-15 from the field and netting seven free-throws. | File Photo/The Cougar

Houston (7-10) was led by  “Chicken” Knowles who recorded a career-high 31 points, hitting 11-of-15 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line. With the loss, the Cougars have fallen to 0-6 in the American Athletic Conference – tying for the worst in school history – however, head coach Kelvin Sampson says they have officially formed an identity.

“Every team is known for something,” said Sampson. “Before you can become good, you have to get an identity. When you have the deficiencies that we have on the inside and interior, our only chances are to outcompete people. That’s not easy to do.”

Although the end result was no cause for celebration, the light at the end of the tunnel is that head coach Kelvin Sampson feels as though Knowles is taking his direction well and finally learning how to compete versus playing hard.

“It’s taken me until the middle of January to teach Chicken (Danrad) how to compete,” said Sampson. “Two months ago, he was almost comatose and had no idea how good a player he could be. When I got here, I think he saw himself as the sixth or seventh-best player (on the team). He had no idea how to compete. Now he’s a major part of everything we do.”

At 6-10 and 190 pounds, Knowles is relied on to be the Cougars’ starting center in the absence of Bertrand Nkali, who was initially penciled in as starter prior to having season-ending surgery for a sports hernia in December.

After falling behind 0-8 two minutes into the game, Knowles, who became only the 55th player in school history to score 30+ points in a game, led a 22-2 run to push the Cougars to their biggest lead of the game, while matching up against 6-11, 250-pound center Ryan Smith.

He credits Sampson as the reason for the elevation in his game.

“I just gave in,” said Knowles. “He (Sampson) told me to practice harder, so I started practicing harder this whole month. I try to go harder every day. I’m trying to get better. He tells me to be aggressive every time. I thought about the game the whole night.”

Although the result was “very disappointing,” Knowles says Cincinnati is next, and aggressive play is what the audience should expect once again.

With little things such as missed free throws down the stretch and bad fouling with single digits on the clock, one should note that Saturday’s game was decided in the last 30-40 seconds, East Carolina in the last 20 seconds, and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UCF, and Boise State were all decided in overtime.

“We’re good enough to play with a lot of these teams,” said Sampson. “Right now, the games that could go either way, we’re not winning them. One of the things that hurt us is depth. We just don’t have a lot of bodies that we can put out there or that can help us win.”

The Cougars look ahead as they face American Athletic Conference rival Cincinnati Bearcats at 6 p.m. Wednesday inside Fifth Third Arena.

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