Men's Basketball Sports

BYU buzzer-beater deflates Houston in 72-71 last-second thriller

Freshman guard Caleb Mills scored a game-high 17 points in Houston's 72-71 thriller loss Friday night at Fertitta Center, a game that culminated in BYU's T.J. Haws hitting a buzzer-beating, midrange jumper to seal the game. | Ahmed Gul/The Cougar

The battle of the Cougars ended in a buzzer-beater as BYU’s T.J. Haws delivered the coup de grace fadeaway jumper, handing Houston its first loss of the season 71-72.

The atmosphere in the Fertitta Center was electric from the jump.

The sold-out crowd erupted on the first possession when redshirt senior Chris Harris Jr. swatted a layup attempt by BYU into the first row and roared when the defensive play was followed by a 3-point make from sophomore guard Nate Hinton that put Houston on the scoreboard first.

Despite the thrilling start, BYU was not rattled.

Its starting lineup consisted of four seniors, and their experience was evident in the first half as they did not seem affected by the amped-up energy at Fertitta Center and were in control for much of the first half.

“At times it looked like men against boys, experience-wise,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the loss. “How old they are and how young we are. And I saw it coming.  I watch this in practice every day.”

UH trailed by as many as 14 in the first half, and they uncharacteristically turned the ball over nine times.

Houston went on an 11-4 run to end the first half, which kept them within striking distance of BYU as UH’s deficit was only seven.

A big key to the run at the end of the half were the rebounds.

BYU controlled the boards to begin the game, at one point out-rebounding UH 14-7, but Houston turned the tides on that advantage and at halftime had the edge 22-20.

“Our guards have to do a better job there,” Sampson said of his team at the boards. “Brison (Gresham) came in and made a difference, but for us, offensive rebounding is going to be critical for us. We have to do a much better job.”

In the second half, Houston’s defensive intensity seemed raised to another level. BYU took contested shots and used most of the shot clock multiple times on their opening possessions, and UH cut its deficit to four.

Even though Houston slowly clawed its way back into the game, BYU’s poise was hard to shake up.

Every time UH would make a run, BYU had an answer.

A perfect example came when Haws hit a tough contested and-1 jumper over sophomore guard Quentin Grimes, and gave BYU breathing room again as their lead went up to four.

It seemed like the entire second half was a battle of runs, a battle of punches with each team looking to land the knockout blow.

It was no surprise that the game went down to the wire, and after a tough up-hill climb where it seemed like Houston was on the verge of taking the lead and escaping from the Fertitta Center with a win, BYU snatched the victory at the final second.

“I’m still learning this team, this team is still learning each other,” Sampson said. “This could be really good for us.”

Houston finished the game shooting 29 of 62 from the field, 38 rebounds and 13 turnovers, nine of which came in the first half.

The Cougars were led by guard Caleb Mills with 17 points from the freshman. Junior forward Fabian White Jr. also found the net frequently, scoring 14 on 7-of-11 shooting.

“This game will pass, the pain will pass,” Sampson said ahead of Houston’s matchup with Rice. “We have a big game coming up on Tuesday.”

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