Freshman guard Caleb Mills scored 22 of his career-best 27 points in the second half to lead the Cougars to a win.

Cougars' second-half surge leads to blowout win over Tulsa

Freshman guard Caleb Mills scored back-to-back field goals to extend the Houston Cougars' halftime lead to 11 coming out of the break. His hot start to the second half gave way to a 22-point explosion, as the Cougars took a 76-43 victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, Wednesday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. Following a one-point overtime loss to SMU on Saturday, the Cougars improve to 11-3 (21-6 overall) in conference play.

After averaging 5.0 points shooting 12% from the field over the previous two games, it was a complete 180 turnaround for Mills, as he ended the night with a career-best 27 points shooting 56.2% from the floor, 55% from behind the arc.

"I give all the credit to my teammates," Mills said after the win. "When I came into this game, I did not want to settle for 3's because my shot has been off over the past few games. Once my teammates helped me get going from the mid-range, everything else came easy for me."

Despite the final score, the first half did not go as planned for the Cougars. After opening the game shooting 50% as a team, Houston was fortunate to hold a six-point lead at the half (26-20), as the Cougars went on to miss 11 of their next 13 shot attempts.

During the second half, UH build of their 7-0 run to close the first period en route to their 33-point win. Houston outscored Tulsa 50-23 in the final period, as sophomore guard Nate Hinton added 15 points to go along with six rebounds.

"We had our fair share of struggles throughout the year, especially with our play coming out of the second half, and it cost us some games this season," Hinton said. "We had to stay with an aggressive mindset and keep the defensive intensity going until that final buzzer sound."

In the loss, Martins Igbanu led the Golden Hurricane with 15 points, while Jeriah Horne added in 12 points and seven rebounds.

Following the win, the Cougars moved back into sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference standings, with Cincinnati falling at home to Central Florida on Wednesday.

Up next, the Cougars will travel to Memphis to take on the 18-8, 7-6 Memphis Tigers, Sunday, inside the FedExForum. Tip-off is slated for 1 P.M. CT.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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