Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson says lack of experience is what caused a one-point loss

Cougars fall short of comeback in thrilling loss to BYU

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

With five seconds remaining, the Houston Cougars led by one when Connor Harding inbound the ball for the BYU Cougars late in the second half. After nearly trailing the entire game, Houston was seconds away from completing what seemed to be an impossible comeback until the final minute of the game.

Harding made a clean pass to TJ Haws, who drove to the right side of the court and scored off a 15-foot fadeaway jumper at the buzzer. The basket gave the Cougars their first loss of the 2019-20 season in a 72-71 defeat to BYU, Friday night, inside in Fertitta Center in Houston.

"I thought their kids played well all night," Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "They have a very well discipline team that really understands what they are trying to do, and they did a great job executing."

Ahead of Friday's match against BYU, Kelvin Sampson spoke on the challenges of facing the Cougars on Thursday. In his interview, Sampson discussed the importance of defending the three against a great shooting team. Unfortunately, the problems he foreshowed became a reality.

Jake Toolson, who scored 14 points in the win, opened the game with a triple for BYU, as the Cougars jumped out to a 14 point advantage over Houston. BYU opened the game shooting 50.0% from deep while scoring 14 points in the paint, but more impressively, it was their play on the defensive end that gave way to a 35-28 halftime lead.

BYU forced Houston to commit nine turnovers in the first half, in which they would convert into 11 addition points. As Houston struggled to buy a basket shooting 36.7% from the field, 18.2% from 3-point range, the only bright spot for the Cougars in the first half came from Fabian White, as the junior forward recorded eight points, five rebounds and a block.

With their inability to score from the outside, the Cougars moved away from the 3-point shot attempts and focused their comeback scoring from the inside and picking up their defensive intensity. Midway through the second half, Cedrick Alley rejected a layup attempt from BYU's Alex Barcello, which gave way to an easy fastbreak bucket by DeJon Jarreau — the basket cut Houston's halftime deficit down to one.

Although Houston would have all the momentum on their side, the Cougars never took full control of the opportunity at hand. While they manage to hold BYU 3-point shooting to 28.6% in the second half, Houston gave up 18 points in the paint, as the Cougars scored on 11 layups.

"Hats off to BYU, but we did not play well to win this game," Sampson said. "We just made too many mistakes, and we have to catch up to ourselves. We have keep improving."

While White ended the night with 14 points and five rebounds, Houston was led in scoring by Caleb Mills. The freshman guard recorded a game-high 17 points in a loss, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, 1-3 from deep.

"He was not great on defense, but I was proud of Caleb," Sampson said. "He can score and was dependable in this game. I know the other guys will get better as the season go on, but he is just a talented offensive player."

Following the tough loss, the Houston Cougars will hit the road on Tuesday to face off against the 3-1 Rice Owls, inside the Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 P.M.

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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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