COUGARS REPORT

Cougars climb to their highest ranking in 36 years

The Coogs keep rolling. Photo via: UHCougarMBK/Twitter/Screenshot

Editor's note: University of Houston announced on Tuesday that they are pausing basketball activities due to positive COVID tests.

The University of Houston men's basketball team was without both Kelvin Sampson and Assistant Coach Kellen Sampson when they played South Carolina last Saturday. Both of the coaches were impacted by COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, thus they had to miss their first game of the season.

Cougars' assistant coach Quannas White was given the opportunity to take up the reins as head coach during the game, and the Cougars got off to a shaky start. However, timely points and great defensive stops secured a Houston victory and prevented their first loss of the season.

The first half was atrocious for the Cougars and seemingly none of their shots were going in. Their shooting percentage was 33% and were 1 of 13 on 3-pointers. At one point, the Cougars went 8½ minutes without a field goal.

South Carolina out played the Cougars and took a 35-31 lead at halftime. This was short-lived, for Houston took over the game with their trilogy of success; tough defense, good rebounding and taking care of the ball in the second half.

Houston had a 14-2 run early in the second half and recaptured the lead 48-42 with 14 minutes remaining. South Carolina kept it close and cut the lead back to a one point game 50-49. However, Houston used a 12-3 run to take a 10-point lead and never looked back.

Junior guard Quentin Grimes truly came alive in the scored half where he scored 19 of his 23 points and went 12-13 from the free throw line.

Injuries did play a part in this game, for Houston was without both Caleb Mills and their leading scorer Marcus Sasser on Saturday. Both players were inactive for the game and both were wearing walking boots on the bench.

This is the second game Mills has missed including Houston's first game of the season against Lamar on Nov. 25 with an injury.

The Cougars reached a new peak for this season as they climbed 3 spots to No. 7 in the country, according to the Associated Press Top 25.

This is the program's highest ranking in 36 years. The last time the Cougars were ranked this high was during the 1983-84 season. They finished 5th in the country that year.

Their next game is on Wednesday against Sam Houston State and the Cougars will once again be with out both Sampson coaches as they continue their continued COVID-19 contact tracing.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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