Men's Basketball

Cougars fall to SMU after comeback attempt falls short


Head coach Kelvin Sampson found himself scratching his head at some of the Cougars’ late-game turnovers, despite strong individual play throughout. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Cougar hopefuls were on the edges of their seats inside of Hofheinz Pavilion Thursday.

Though UH lost 75-69 to SMU, a late rally put the final result in doubt.

After trailing by as much as 17 points with 11 minutes remaining, it looked as though SMU would win decisively.

But the Cougars fired back, draining seven of nine shots, followed by an alley-oop from junior forward Devonta Pollard, cutting the deficit to 68-64 with less than four minutes to play.

Cougar (9-14, 1-10) fans rose from their seats, seemingly hopeful that they could take the lead for the first time and win the game, but the Mustangs (20-5, 11-2) had an answer every time.

“The biggest thing we fight is our size,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “A team like SMU takes advantage of our weakness. We just don’t have the size to combat that. They bring it at you in waves.”

With an obvious lack of depth and size, the Cougars would have to find other ways to combat their deficiencies, but were unable to do so in the last minutes of the game, missing eight of their last 10 attempts and adding turnovers to that.

“In the second half, we had some head-scratching turnovers,” said Sampson. “Turnovers for no reason.”

The Cougars had an opportunity to take down the Top 25- ranked Mustangs, but mistakes hurt them. Their 13 turnovers turned into 15 points for SMU, and with the win and Tulsa’s loss to UCoon last night, they have taken the lead in the American Athletic Conference.

For Sampson there is solace in the fact that there is improvement.

“We’re getting better. I can tell,” said Sampson. “People from afar, unfortunately, you get judged by your record, and that’s about it. I understand that. That’s fair, but I also know what we are building here, and I know where this program is going to be in a year or so.”

The Cougars face more conference rivals as they travel to Florida to face UCF at 1 p.m. Sunday and continue on the road to face USF at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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