An awful showing from 3-point range ends in a difficult loss for the Houston Cougars in Oregon.

Cougars fall to Ducks in poor shooting night in Oregon

Cougars fall to Ducks in poor shooting night in Oregon
Kelvin Sampson. Getty Images

Last season, the Houston Cougars picked up one of their most impressive victories in a win over the Oregon Ducks on their home floor in Houston. A year later, the No. 11 Ducks revenged their loss by playing both ends of the court at a high level.

Freshman guard Caleb Mills knocked down his first of two 3-point field goal attempts at the 6:53 mark in the first half. The basket was also the first made field goal from behind the arc for the Cougars, who missed their first six attempts inside the Matthew Knight Arena Friday night.

Following the 3 drained by Mills, the Cougars missed their next four 3-point field goal attempts to close out the half (1-11) in one of their worst shooting nights in school history, as the Cougars dropped a 78-66 loss to the Ducks. Mills, who was the only player to hit a 3-point field goal on the night, led the way for Houston with 21 points shooting 8-for-15-from the field, 2-for-6 from behind the arc.

If Houston would have adjusted their offense early in the game, perhaps the Cougars would have come out on the winning side of an eight-point loss. On shots coming from inside the mid-range, the Cougars shot 55.5% in comparison to the 10% from deep by the end of the final buzzer.

While Houston remained cold from the outside, the Ducks played a large factor in the Cougars' poor shooting night due to the intensity Oregon played on defense. Their defensive scheme allowed only one other player to reach double-digits in points, as junior forward Fabian White recording 12 points (6-for-10 FG) in the loss.

The only good stretch for the Cougars came with a little over five minutes left in the first half, when Houston went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-14 lead over the Ducks. Oregon responded to close out the half with an 18-5 run to take a 32-27 lead into the halftime break, and never led up.

In the win, Oregon's senior guard Anthony Mathis led the way for the Ducks with 18 points while shooting 5-for-9 from behind the arc. Mathis' backcourt mate, Payton Pritchard finished with 16 points and a game-high five assists on the night.

Following the loss, the Houston Cougars will look to bounce back on Tuesday, in a game against the Houston Baptist Wolves, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

QUICK TIP-INS:

  • While the Cougars struggled from deep, the Ducks shot 47.6% from 3-point range.
  • The Cougars won the battle of the glass, out-rebounding the Ducks 38-26.
  • After a career 32-point night against the Rice Owls on Tuesday, Quentin Grimes scored only eight points on 3-for-8 from the field, 0-for-4 from behind the arc.

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The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

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