COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT

NCAA hoops: Bamba comes up big for UT as conference play begins for most schools

Mohamed Bamba of Texas had a strong week. Chris Covatta/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (10-4, 1-1 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-Kansas 92-86, W-@ Iowa State 74-70 OT

This week: Saturday @ Baylor

Mohamed Bamba had the best game of his career, but it wasn’t enough for Texas to get the win over Kansas, as the Jayhawks shot their way to a 92-86 win. Kansas hit 11 3-pointers in the 2nd half, and 17 in the game. Shooting had to come from the outside because Bamba had 8 blocks to go along with his 22 points and 15 rebounds. Dylan Osetkowski and Matt Coleman scored 17 a piece for the Horns in the loss. The 3-point touch went in Texas’ favor on New Year’s Day in a 74-70 overtime win over Iowa State. Osetkowski hit 7 from distance as part of his career-high 25 points. Bamba shined again with 10 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. A loss against Iowa State would have been tough, given they are not expected to contend in the Big 12 this season. Texas has another tough matchup on their hands, as they go to Baylor on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (11-2, 0-1 SEC)

Last week (0-1): L-@ Alabama 79-57

This week: Tuesday vs. Florida, Saturday vs. LSU

Texas A&M climbed to No. 5 in the rankings, and were quickly dropped by an Alabama team that had everything going for them in a 79-57 blowout. With Admon Gilder injured and leading scorer D.J. Hogg suspended, the Aggies struggled to score, shooting 30% from the field and under 10% from 3 in the game. Tyler Davis and Robert Williams led the Aggies with 14 points a piece. Texas A&M will look to bounce back against an up and down Florida team and LSU at home this week. 

HOUSTON COUGARS (12-2, 2-0 AAC) 

Last week (2-0): W-@ South Florida 79-60, W-Temple 76-73

This week: Thursday @ Wichita State

Houston started out its conference season with a bang, blowing out South Florida on the road 79-60. The Cougars out-shot the Bulls 45%-32%, Corey Davis Jr. led the way with 15 points for UH. The Cougars kept their momentum rolling when they got home, edging Temple 76-73. Breaon Brady had 9 rebounds to go along with his career-high 21 points in the win. After a back and forth first half, Houston went on a 20-2 run to pull ahead for good. The Coogs get the toughest game on their schedule this week, as they hit the road to take on the 9th ranked Wichita State Shockers. Houston has now won 11 of its last 12.

RICE OWLS (3-12, 0-2 CUSA)

Last week (0-2): L-@ UTSA 79-66, L-@ UTEP 80-62

This week: Thursday vs. Old Dominion. Saturday vs. Charlotte 

The awful non-conference season for Rice seems to have spilled over into the Conference USA schedule. Rice got hammered on the road twice this week. First, they fell at UTSA 79-66 in a game where their 21 turnovers killed the Owls. Connor Cashaw led the Owls with 14, albeit in a 4-14 shooting performance. Things went from bad to worse in El Paso, in an 80-62 loss to the UTEP Miners. Rice shot 36% from the field, while UTEP was over 55% for the game. The Owls have a tough matchup against Old Dominion on Thursday, but have one of their most favorable matchups of the conference season on Saturday, as Charlotte heads in to Houston. 

BAYLOR BEARS (10-3, 0-1 BIG XII)

Last week (0-1): L-@ Texas Tech 77-53

This week: Tuesday vs. TCU, Saturday vs. Texas

Baylor has had two road games, and neither have gone well for them. Texas Tech protected their home court in a 77-53 win. Baylor was without their top rebounder, Jo Lual-Acuil, and the Bears lost the battle on the glass 39-21. Baylor shot 37% from the field. Mark Vital led the Bears with 12 points in the loss. The Bears have two home games this week, but the competition will be stiff with TCU and Texas coming in to Waco. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (12-1, 0-1 BIG XII)

Last week (0-1): L-Oklahoma 90-89

This week: Tuesday @ Baylor, Saturday vs. Kansas

TCU’s 17-game win streak came to an end, as Oklahoma overcame a 13 point second half deficit to hand the Frogs their first loss of the season, 90-89. TCU couldn’t hold OU’s freshman standout Trae Young, who scored 39 for the Sooners. Desmond Bane and Ahmed Handy both had 15 for the Horned Frogs in the loss. This week won’t get easier for TCU, as they travel to Baylor and face Kansas in Fort Worth this week. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (12-1, 1-0 BIG XII)

Last week (1-0): W-Baylor 77-53

This week: Tuesday @ Kansas, Saturday vs. Kansas State

Texas Tech had their way with a solid but shorthanded Baylor team, getting a 77-53 win in Lubbock. Tech continues to ride a strong defense and have now won 6 straight games. Keenan Evans paced the Red Raiders with 18 points. Things are getting tougher this week, as Tech plays their first true road game of the season, and it happens to be at Kansas. Tech gets Kansas State at home this weekend.

SMU MUSTANGS (12-3, 2-0 AAC)

Last week (2-0): W-UCF 56-51, W- South Florida 79-39

This week: Thursday @ Tulane, Sunday @ Cincinnati

SMU won a grinder against Central Florida, eventually pulling out a 56-51 win despite committing 15 turnovers. Jarrey Foster and Shake Milton scored 14 each for the Mustangs in the win. Their next game was anything but grinding, as the Ponies blew the doors off of South Florida 79-39. Milton had 14 again in the win. SMU held USF to 28% from the field and forced 21 turnovers in the blowout win. They hit the road this week, taking on Tulane and 19th ranked Cincinnati. 

LSU TIGERS (9-3)

Last week (1-0): W-Memphis 71-61

This week: Wednesday vs. Kentucky, Saturday @ Texas A&M

LSU beat Memphis 71-61, and the story of the game was the 3-point line. The Tigers hit 13 of their 26 attempts from beyond the arc, while holding Memphis to 4 of 22 shooting. Tremont Waters had 18 points and 8 assists for LSU in the win. The game was LSU’s first road game of the season. They have a daunting start to conference play, as they draw Kentucky and a road trip to Texas A&M this week. 

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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