The Houston Cougars record a season-high 11 blocks in a blowout victory over the UTEP Miners.

Cougars defense tops Miners in blowout victory

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It did not take long for the Houston Cougars to pick up where they left off during the second half of their previous game. Playing with high energy on both ends of the floor, the Cougars took a 77-57 victory over the UTEP Miners, Thursday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

With the win, the Cougars improve to 7-3 on the season while the Miners suffered their second loss of the year with an 8-2 record.

"We keep getting better and believing in what we are doing," head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win. "This team is still learning how to play with each other, and we gotta keep fighting and getting better."

Although they had a solid night on the offensive end shooting 43.9% from the floor, and 50.0% from behind the arc, the Cougars' performance on the defensive end is what led to a wire-to-wire victory. UH recorded a season-high 11 blocks with junior big man Brison Gresham leading the way with a career-best six rejections to protect the paint. In addition to recording 10 points, Gresham also received his first double-double of the season with 12 rebounds.

"It's the way I practice," Gresham said. "I put in a lot of work over the past two days and I feel like my energy carried over to the game."

Houston led by double figures for the majority of the game, but the Miners went on several runs in a come back attempt. UTEP's biggest stretch came late in the first half on a 12-0 run to cut their 15-point deficit down to three. The Cougars withstood the Miners' surge to take a 37-27 lead into the half.

Following a career performance against the OSU Cowboys on Sunday, Caleb Mills scored 17 points (7-17 FG, 2-2 3PT) in his first career start in the win. With his fifth double-double of the season, sophomore guard Nate Hinton added 17 points of his own to go along with 10 rebounds.

"Nate [Hinton] is one of those guys you take for granted because he does it every night," Sampson said. "The most impressing thing about Nate tonight, he had 17 points on six shots — very efficient."

In the loss, the Miners were led by junior forward, Bryson Williams, who scored 17 points while shooting 7-for-19 from the field (37%), 3-for-6 (50%) from deep. The only other player to score in double figures for UTEP was Souley Boum, who recorded 13 points.

Following the win, the Cougars will hit the road to compete in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic inside the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu on Dec. 22-25.

Quick Notes:

  • After going scoreless in his last game, Quentin Grimes scored four points shooting 2-for-8 from the floor.
  • The Cougars won the battle of the boards out-rebounding the Miners 49-34.
  • The Cougars scored a total of 34 points in the paint.

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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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