Sophomore guard Nate Hinton records double-double en route to the Houston Cougars' blowout victory over the Angelo State Rams

Cougars get blowout victory over Rams in exhibition game

The University of Houston Men's basketball team may be on the verge of something special ahead of the 2019-20 College Basketball season. In their lone exhibition match, the Cougars took a 108-42 victory over the Angelo State Rams on Saturday night inside the Fertita Center in Houston.

It was a wire-to-wire victory as the Cougars jumped out to an early 13-2 advantage that was ignited by forward Brison Gresham, who scored on Houston's opening possession with a hook shot over his left shoulder.

"I take nothing from this game," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "I don't get carried away with individual performances or scores because it really means nothing. I keep everything in perspective. We have a long way to go before we can get to where we are trying to get too."

While Houston would go on to shoot 64.1% from the field, 46.7% from deep, the Cougars took a 61-25 lead into the halftime break due to their defensive intensity. During the first 20 minutes of the game, the Cougars recorded four blocks and four steals, as well as forced the Rams into 12 turnovers in which they converted into 18 addition points.

Against a team that averaged 80.5 points per game last season, the Cougars held the Rams to 17 points in the second half en route to the win.

"That's the culture of the program," sophomore guard Nate Hinton said. "Defense is what keeps us going, and it is the main focus of this team."

With three steals and one block on the night, Hinton was the defensive anchor for Houston but had an exceptional performance on both sides of the ball. He finished with a double-double of 18 points (game-high) shooting 9-for-16 from the floor, to go along with 13 rebounds.

In his unofficial debut as a member of the Cougars, sophomore guard Quentin Grimes recorded 16 points (6-8 FG, 2-4 3PT), while Marcus Sasser led the bench in scoring with 17 points for Houston. In a losing effort, the Rams were led by guards Paul Williams, who recorded 14 points, and Collin Turner, who poured in 13 for Angelo State.

Following the exhibition win, the Houston Cougars will return to the court on Tuesday to take on the Alabama State Hornets to open their 2019-20 season. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Fertita Center in Houston.

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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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