Home court advantage not enough to will Cougars over Hurricanes
Riding high on a two game winning streak after defeating the Rice Owls and the national champion UConn Huskies, the Cougars (9-12) continued their four-game homestead against the first place Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (16-5).
Thursday’s game featured three of the league’s top-5 scorers. Junior guard Jherrod Stiggers tops the Cougars and ranks fifth with 15.0 points per contest, while Tulsa guards Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard are ranked fourth and fifth with 15.1 and 15.0 points per game, respectively.
The Cougars traded blows with the Hurricanes throughout the first half and tempers began to flair when sophomore Danrad Knowles came close to getting a technical, and quickly after Jerrod Stiggers did receive one. The sequence ignited the crowd and got them into the game.
“You can tell our students are behind us,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “You can tell it when I walk around campus with the feedback I get.
Houston went to halftime with a 34-29 lead, however, the first-half momentum didn’t carry over for the Cougars. Houston only managed to score six points in the first 10 minutes and trailed 48-40. It didn’t get any easier as they managed to score only four points in the final ten minutes and Tulsa was able to pull away at the end to stay undefeated in conference play with a 57-44 win.
After a hot first half, Houston shot a measly 12.5 percent from the field after halftime, but due to their resilience on defense they managed to keep the game within reach heading into the final minutes. Sampson wasn’t blaming the poor shooting due to lack of energy.
“We need all our parts working on the same night, like against Connecticut,” said Sampson. “You learn not to confuse shooting poorly with playing poorly. We had some guys that shot poorly against Connecticut. We had a lot of guys playing good. Tonight there were some guys who didn’t show up for whatever reason, and because of our margin of error we just can’t overcome that.”
Houston was without two key players in senior forward Mikhail McLean, due to a broken foot, and junior guard LeRon Barnes, who was out with a fever. Despite the loss and struggle of certain players, Sampson’s faith in the future has yet to falter.
“I know the kids we have coming in and I know the kids we are recruiting,” said Sampson. “This is going to be fun. It is. I know I may go overboard on days like Sunday when we beat Connecticut, and I know I get too low on nights when we can’t make a basket and lose to Tulsa. You can see the foundation being built.”
The Cougars wrap up their four-game home stand, following a week-long break from their schedule when they meet No. 23 SMU on Thursday at 8 p.m., inside Hofheinz Pavilion.