Down goes No. 1: UH “exposed” in loss to No. 8 Alabama
With not much going right offensively, Alabama head coach Nate Oats made the second-half adjustment of having his team spread the floor offensively in an effort to try to let the Crimson Tides’ speed take over.
A 15-point UH lead quickly evaporated as the dormant Alabama offense began to erupt on the way to the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide knocking off the top-ranked Cougars 71-65 in front of a record-breaking Fertitta Center crowd of 7,718.
Entering Saturday, UH head coach Kelvin Sampson knew Alabama’s speed would play a factor just as it did in the Cougars’ loss to the Crimson Tide 364 days ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Indeed it did as the Crimson Tide’s speed proved to be the difference in the game.
“Those kids from Alabama aren’t easy to keep in front of you,” Sampson said. “We got exposed. We exposed them for a while and then they turned around and exposed us.”
UH had no answer for Alabama’s speed, always being one step behind defensively.
“The guy that usually wins the first dribble wins the possession,” Sampson said. “We were losing too many first dribbles.”
Things worsened for UH when sophomore guard Tramon Mark picked up his fifth foul with 8:09 left in the second half.
Alabama dominated the paint from that point on, with four of its final five field goals coming from that area.
What was once a 15-point UH lead suddenly vanished as Alabama’s Mark Sears hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:03 remaining.
“We just couldn’t guard,” said UH point guard Jamal Shead. “We didn’t stay in front of the ball for four or five straight possessions and that’s how (Alabama) got back in it.
Despite the defensive struggles, it was a one-possession game in the final minute.
Missed free throws by UH on one end combined with Alabama freshman Brandon Miller, who went 0-for-8 from the field, going a perfect 6-for-6 from the line put an end any comeback hopes the Cougars had.
“Last three minutes of the game is usually free throws, turnovers and controlling the boards,” Sampson said. “I thought Alabama did a good job in those areas and we didn’t.”
All the little things added up in the end, as UH suffered its first loss of the season.
“All the little stuff matters,” said UH head coach Kelvin Sampson. “We fouled the 3-point shooter twice for instance. That matters. We missed 10 free throws. That matters.”
Shead led UH with a season-high 19 points, including a poster dunk on Alabama’s 6-foot-8-inch Noah Gurley late in the first half.
Mark was the only other Cougar to finish in double figures with 10 points.
Preseason All-American guard Marcus Sasser could not find his touch, being held without a field goal in the first half and finishing with nine points on 2-of-11 shooting.