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NCAA hoops: Aggies keep rolling; tough loss for UH

The Longhorns picked up a win and a loss. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (7-3)

Last week (1-1): L-Michigan 59-52, W-Louisiana Tech 75-60

This week: Monday vs. Tennessee St., Friday vs. Alabama

The root of the problems with last season’s Texas basketball team was poor shooting. The Horns had a nightmarish flashback to that in the Michigan game on Tuesday, shooting 36.5% from the field in a 59-52 loss. The offense struggled in their first game without leading scorer Andrew Jones, who Shaka Smart hopes to have back before the New Year. Dylan Osetkowski led the Horns with 17. Osetkowski would also lead them on Saturday, scoring 22 points and pulling down 7 rebounds in a 75-60 win over Louisiana Tech. Texas shot 42%  from 3-point range in the win. Texas finishes their non-conference schedule this week hosting Tennessee State on Monday and a solid Alabama squad on Friday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (9-1)

Last week (1-0): W-Savannah State 113-66

This week: Tuesday vs. Northern Kentucky, Thursday vs. Buffalo 

Texas A&M had a memorable performance against Savannah State in a 113-66 win. The 113 points were the most put up by an Aggie team since 1989, and they also set a school record for made 3-pointers in a game with 16. DJ Hogg hit 5 3-pointers as part of his team high 18 points. The Aggies should go into SEC play with a strong 11-1 mark, assuming they take care of business this week against Northern Kentucky and Buffalo. 

HOUSTON COUGARS (9-2) 

Last week (1-1): L-@ LSU 80-77, W-Prairie View A&M 92-72

This week: Wednesday vs. Providence

Houston had one of their most disappointing performances of the season, and still almost pulled out a victory against LSU, dropping to the Tigers 80-77 in Baton Rouge. Rob Gray put up 20 points, but shot only 1-6 from 3-point range. The Cougars were out-rebounded for the first time this season. Houston got back on track against Prairie View A&M, with a crushing 92-72 win. Armani Brooks scored 24 in the win, and the Cougars shot better than 50% from 3 in the game. Houston only has one game this week, taking on a strong, but injured Providence team.

RICE OWLS (3-8)

Last week (1-1): W-St. Edwards 91-86, L-@ Texas Tech 73-53

This week: Tuesday @ New Mexico. Friday vs. Texas State

Mixed results for the Owls this week. They got a win over St. Edwards, 91-86, but edging out a lower division school isn’t exactly screaming that things are getting better. Connor Cashew matched his career-high with 27 points in the win. Cashaw had 21 points and 12 rebounds against Texas Tech, but the Owls got hammered 73-53 in Lubbock. The Owls lost the turnover battle 26-9 and were dominated on both ends. Rice travels to New Mexico and hosts Texas State before starting a potentially rough Conference-USA schedule. 

BAYLOR BEARS (9-2)

Last week (2-0): W-Texas Southern 99-68, W-Savannah State 118-86

This week: Wednesday vs. Southern

Baylor continues to punish inferior competition this season, pulling in 2 more blowout wins last week. The first was a 99-68 win over Texas Southern, that saw the return of Manu Lecomte who put in 22 points after missing a game with a sprained thumb. Nuni Omot also had 22 in the win. Sunday’s 118-86 dismantling of Savannah State was the Jo Lual-Acuil show. The Baylor center had a career high 31 points and 20 rebounds in the win. Lecomte added 25 points. The Bears just have one game left before Big XII play starts up, Wednesday night against Southern. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (12-0)

Last week: IDLE

This week: Monday vs. Texas Southern, Friday vs. William & Mary

Jamie Dixon’s team will look to finish the non-conference season unbeaten with games against Texas Southern and William & Mary this week. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (9-1)

Last week (0-1): W-Kennesaw State 82-53, W-Rice 73-53


This week: Tuesday vs. Florida Atlantic, Friday vs. Abilene Christian

The Red Raiders had little trouble this week, with blowout wins over Kennesaw State and Rice. 14 players got time on the floor in the 82-53 win over the Kennesaw State Owls. Keenan Evans led the Raiders with 16 and they doubled up Kennesaw on the glass. The Rice Owls didn’t fair much better, as the Raiders smashed their former Southwest Conference opponents 73-53. The Red Raiders shot 49% from the field and forced 26 turnovers. Wins over Florida Atlantic and Abilene Christian would send Tech into conference play with a top 20 ranking. 

SMU MUSTANGS (8-3)

Last week (1-0): W-New Orleans 79-66

This week: Monday vs. Boise St., Tuesday vs. Cal Poly

Jimmy Whitt led the Mustangs with 19 points and 8 assists en route to a 79-66 win over New Orleans, improving SMU to 7-0 at home this season. The guard-heavy Ponies shot 11-22 from 3-point range. SMU will look to extend their home winning streak with back to back games against Boise State and Cal Poly on Monday and Tuesday before starting up AAC play. 
 

LSU TIGERS (6-3)

Last week (1-1): W-Houston 80-77, L-Stephen F. Austin 83-82

This week: Tuesday vs. Sam Houston State, Friday vs. North Florida

LSU impressed with a big win over a strong Houston Cougar team, 80-77. Aaron Epps had a career-night, setting personal highs in points (26) and rebounds (16). Tremont Waters had 17 points and blocked the game-tying 3-point attempt with seconds remaining. Epps followed up his hero performance with a rough finish in a 83-82 loss to Stephen F. Austin. Epps missed a game-winning layup at the buzzer for a disappointing finish to a 16 point, 10 rebound effort. The Tigers get Sam Houston State and North Florida this week. 

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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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