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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Dameon Pierce was a bright spot for the Texans on Saturday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans played a football game for the first time since January on Saturday, and while it was only the preseason, there were some things that should create a sense of optimism for fans.

One of those groups is none other than the running back position, which is unfamiliar territory for Texans fans to have any hope about that unit.

Since the turn of the new decade, the running back group has been abysmal for Houston, ranking among the bottom in the NFL, including 31st in 2020 and 32nd in 2021. Entering into the 2022 season, it seems like the tide has begun to shift, and that is due to rookie running back Dameon Pierce, who impressed in his first outing ever in a Houston uniform.

Pierce garnered some attention with his 49-yard rushing performance, including a 20-yard run in the second quarter. The fourth-round pick out of Florida looked like he was gliding in between the land of giants at times as he shifted through his own offensive linemen and opposing defenders.

He also displayed his ability to get to the edge and turn the corner on the outside as well, something that not many Houston backs have been able to do over the last few seasons.

Now it is early, and after one preseason game, there should be no reason to crown Pierce the second coming of Arian Foster. But the reason Houston fans should have optimism when it comes to the running backs is because of the potential Pierce has shown.

In 2021, Houston’s best running back for most of the season was Mark Ingram, and he spent half of the year with, coincidentally, the New Orleans Saints.

Running back Rex Burkhead took charge towards the tail end of the season, and finished as the team’s leading rusher with only 427 yards for the entire campaign. Pierce got roughly one-eighth of that in limited action against the Saints.

Running back Marlon Mack started the game for Houston. While he only finished with a lackluster six yards on three carries, it is also worth noting that starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil, starting center Justin Britt and guard Kenyon Green all did not play for the Texans against the Saints.

Burkhead is still on the roster. He also did not play against New Orleans, but going back to 2021, he proved that he still has the capability to make an impact on games in spurts.

With both Mack and Burkhead good veterans to help Pierce’s development throughout his rookie season, and the small sample the young back has put on film, there is reason to be enthusiastic about Houston’s running back group for 2022.

After all, the bar has been set pretty low following the past two seasons. The silver lining about hitting rock bottom is that eventually you can only go up.

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