Kelvin Sampson. Getty Images
The Houston Cougars' magical season ended in the Sweet 16 with a 62-58 loss to Kentucky. The Cougars got down early and chased the game throughout. They got close late and took the lead, but could not close the deal. Five quick thoughts on the game:
1) Beaten in the paint
The Cougars have been a great rebounding team all year, but Kentucky's size proved too much. The Wildcats out rebounded the Cougars 37-23 and dominated inside.
The Cougars defense, strong all year, could not slow down Kentucky. The No. 1 team in allowing field goal percentage before the game at under 40 percent, the Cougars could not stop the Wildcats, who shot 56 percent in the first half and 47.8 percent for the game.
3) Davis locked down
Corey Davis Jr. has been a great scorer all season, but Kentucky's length and athleticism gave him fits. He forced shots and hit only 5 of 16 (1 of 7 on 3s) for 14 points in his last game as a Cougar. In general, when the Cougars lost this season, they struggled shooting the ball, and as a team they just could not make shots against the Wildcats. Give Kentucky credit for playing great defense, however. They held the Cougars to 40.4 percent shooting.
4) That was foul
The Cougars got in foul trouble with 10 in the first half and 23 for the game. When the Cougars can get by with physical play, they tend to win. But that did not happen against Kentucky. The Wildcats were the most athletic team UH has faced, and they simply did not have the guns to keep up. That led to fouls, which led to the loss.
5) Looking ahead
The Cougars will be really good again next year, assuming coach Kelvin Sampson hangs around. The guess here is he will, and despite losing Davis and Galen Robinson, the Cougars will bring back a strong squad. Maybe not as good as this year's, but they will be contenders in the AAC again. It was a great ride for UH, and it is a shame it ended when it did. The Cougars fought hard and gave themselves a chance late, but came up short. The team captured the imagination of the city and made a great run. Hopefully there is more to come.
Houston Astros skipper Joe Espada wasted no time this week at spring training by answering one of the most talked about questions of the offseason.
Espada revealed that newly-acquired free agent Josh Hader will be the team's closer and will pitch the ninth inning, with Ryan Pressly working as the setup man.
Bryan Abreu will be tapped to pitch the seventh inning, but it wouldn't shock anyone if he had the best season of the three. But after Abreu, things get interesting in the bullpen.
Who pitches the sixth inning?
Astros GM Dana Brown gave Rafael Montero a vote of confidence, saying he's “legit.”
While we have our concerns about Montero after he finished with an ERA over five last year, there's reason for hope. The nature of relief pitchers halving up and down seasons from year to year could work in Montero's favor.
And with the salary that's already committed to him, Brown will likely give him every opportunity to justify his contract. It will be fascinating to see how Espada deploys him early on. You have to think with the boss man backing Montero, Espada will be on board too.
But if he does struggle, will Espada quickly stop using him in critical situations? The good news is, the team won't often have to turn to him in high leverage situations with Abreu, Pressly, and Hader ready to handle those duties.
Be sure to watch the video above for the full discussion about the Astros 'pen, and much more!
Don't miss Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every week on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel!