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Friday, June 2, 2023

Men's Basketball

Cougars mount big comeback against Mustangs


The Cougars clawed their was back from an 11-point deficit to earn a hard-fought win over SMU on Monday night. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

At halftime, the men’s basketball team was down 11 points to 12th-ranked Southern Methodist University. The Cougars erased that deficit to upset the Mustangs 71-68.

“They are hard to play against,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said.

UH became the second team to beat SMU this year.

Although there was much improvement amongst the team as a whole, the re-emergence of forward Devonta Pollard, who scored 23 points to lead the team, came to the rescue in the second half, where he tallied 16 of his total points.

“We just focused on defense and rebounding,” Pollard said. “Everything else just took care of itself and went our way.

The Cougars entered the second half on a mission to fight back. Pollard and guard Damyean Dotson went on a 21-4 run midway through the second half, while center Bertrand Nkali added physicality from off the bench that was crucial to the Cougars’ second-half success.

“There were a lot of turning points in the game,” Sampson said. “When we got down by 11, it was our fight. That’s our identity. We worked for those shots; we don’t back down.”

Houston shot 54.5 percent from the field in the second half, 42.9 percent from behind the arc, and drained 10 of their 18 free-throws.

SMU started the second on an 8-2 run, but went on to miss 10 of 11 shots, failing to make a basket for nearly six minutes in the second.

“I think we have had slippage in a lot of areas,” SMU head coach Larry Brown said. “In some ways I think we are worrying about things that really aren’t that important. We won by doing a great job on the boards, and we haven’t done that recently. I have seen it, but I also understood that every game will be a lot tougher based on how we started the season.”

Houston led by as many as eight points until 5:02 remaining, when the Mustangs began to rally late in the game, with guard Nic Moore scoring five straight points and two free throws made by forward Ben Moore, which cut the lead to 66-65 with two minutes left.

Moore then hit a 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to cut the lead to two. Guard Wes VanBeck was then fouled and hit one of his free throws with 14 seconds remaining. SMU’s Jordan Tolbert then missed his 3-point attempt missed and Shake Milton could not get a 3-point attempt off by the end of regulation.

“We didn’t play like ourselves,” Tolbert said. “We got out of what we normally do. We stayed in the game down the stretch. The last four or five possessions we didn’t get the look we were trying to get.”

SMU is the highest-ranked team that the Cougars have beaten since 1995.

Up next, the Cougars face the Tulsa Hurricanes at 2 p.m. Sunday in Oklahoma. They will return to Hofheinz to host Memphis at 6 p.m. on Feb. 10.

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