COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT

NCAA hoops: Big win for UH as most teams roll through the week

NCAA hoops: Big win for UH as most teams roll through the week
Rob Gray has the Houston Cougars on a roll. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The weekly college basketball report:

TEXAS LONGHORNS (9-3)

Last week (2-0): W-Louisiana Tech 47-46, W-@ Alabama 66-50

This week: Friday vs. Kansas

Texas played their worse offensive game of the season against Tennessee State. Luckily, the defense was just good enough for them to sneak out with a 47-46 win. The Horns shot 3-21 from 3 and had 17 turnovers on the day. Dylan Osetkowski led the Horns with 16 in the win. The offense improved slightly against Alabama, as Mohamed Bamba led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The freshman also added 5 blocks in the win. Texas starts up Big XII play with 11th ranked Kansas on Friday night. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (11-1)

Last week (2-0): W-Northern Kentucky 64-58, W-Buffalo 89-73

This week: Saturday @ Alabama

Texas A&M struggled against Northern Kentucky without Admon Gilder and Robert Williams, but were able to hold on for a 64-58 win. The Aggies shot 2-20 from 3 in the win, and the game was tied with less than 8 minutes to play. The Ags had a bounce-back showing against Buffalo though, rolling to an 89-73 victory. The sweet victory has some sour to go along with it, as Billy Kennedy announced before the game that leading scorer D.J. Hogg was going to be suspended for 3 games for violating team rules. The 2nd of those 3 games comes Saturday in their SEC opener at Alabama. 

HOUSTON COUGARS (10-2) 

Last week (1-0): W-Providence 70-59

This week: Thursday @ South Florida, Saturday vs. Temple

Rob Gray led the Cougars to a 70-59 win, in maybe their best victory of the season to date. Gray had 24 points in the win, including a run of 7 straight in the 2nd half. The Cougar bench also outscored the Friar bench 20-5. AAC play starts up this week with a game at South Florida and a home game against Temple. 

RICE OWLS (3-10)

Last week (0-2): L-@ New Mexico 78-69, L- Texas State 74-66

This week: Thursday @ UTSA. Saturday @ UTEP

The nightmare continues for Rice. New Mexico has been consistently competitive until this year, and they have run into serious struggles. The Owls couldn’t take advantage though, falling 78-69 to the Lobos in Albuquerque. Connor Cashaw led the Owls with 16 points but ultimately fouled out of the game. Cashaw was strong again on Friday, leading the Owls with 15 in a 74-66 loss to the Texas State Bobcats. Rice has now lost 6 of their last 7 and head into conference play as possible the worst team in the league. They start off the second season with back to back road games against UTSA and UTEP. 

BAYLOR BEARS (10-2)

Last week (2-0): W-Southern 80-60 

This week: Friday @ Texas Tech

The Baylor Bears won their fifth straight game, and established themselves as a real contender in the Big XII as they rolled Southern 80-60. Manu Lecomte led the Bears with 22 points in the win, and the Bears shot 63% from the field. They start conference play at Texas Tech on Friday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (12-0)

Last week: W-Texas Southern 91-72, W- William & Mary 86-75

This week: Saturday vs. Oklahoma

No surprise, TCU took care of business this week and head into conference play unbeaten. They started out with a 91-72 drubbing of Texas Southern. JD Miller led the Horned Frogs in the win. Texas Southern fell to 0-12 with the loss. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson led the Frogs in their 86-75 win over William and Mary with 23 points. The win set the school record for consecutive wins at 17, dating back to last season’s NIT Championship run. TCU starts conference play with a home game against Oklahoma on Saturday. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (11-1)

Last week (2-0): W-Florida Atlantic 90-54, W-Abilene Christian 74-47

This week: Friday vs. Baylor.

Florida Atlantic hung with Texas Tech for about a half. Whatever Chris Beard said to his team at halftime worked wonders. The Red Raiders outscored the Owls by 29 in the 2nd half en route to a 90-54 win. Keenan Evans led the Raiders with 15 and Tech hit a season high 14 3-pointers in the win. Zach Smith scored a team-high 16 in the Red Raiders 74-47 win over Abilene Christian. Tech was +12 in the rebounding department. The Red Raiders start off Big XII play with a matchup against a tough Baylor team on Friday. 

SMU MUSTANGS (10-3)

Last week (2-0): W-Boise State 86-63, W-Cal Poly 84-64

This week: Wednesday vs. UCF, Sunday vs. South Florida

SMU had five guys in double digits in the 86-63 win over Boise St., led by Jimmy Whitt, Jahmal McMurray and Ethan Chargois with 16 a piece. SMU shot 59% from the field in the win. They followed that up with a drubbing of Cal Poly, 84-64. It was the Ben Emelogu show, as he was perfect from the field, including 5-5 from 3. The Mustangs start conference play with home games against UCF and USF this week. SMU has now won 31 consecutive games at home. 

LSU TIGERS (6-3)

Last week (2-0): W-Sam Houston 80-58,  W-North Florida 104-52

This week: Thursday @ Memphis

LSU rebounded from a slow start to get an impressive win over Sam Houston State, 80-58. Skylar Mays and Randy Onwuasor led the Tigers with 13 a piece. LSU scored the first 11 points of the 2nd half to put the game out of reach. LSU then hammered North Florida, doubling them up by a score of 104-52. Tremont Waters and Duop Reath each scored 15 in the win. LSU plays its first true road game of the season on Thursday as they head to Memphis to take on the 9-3 Tigers. 

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Jose Abreu looks lost at the plate. Composite Getty Image.

It’s a long baseball season, sure the Astros have started 4-8, and there are plenty of fingers to point around. But there’s no need to push the panic button.

Not yet.

Last year, the Astros didn’t start much better – they were 5-7 after a dozen games. It just seemed different, though. Nobody was wringing hands over the slow start. After all, the Astros were the defending World Series champions, coming off a 106-win season and figured to make mincemeat of the American League West again. Business as usual.

This year is different. The Astros are losing games in very un-Astros-like fashion. While the starting pitching has been surprisingly fine, at least the starters healthy enough to take the field, the bullpen has been a mess. The back end relievers, supposedly the strongest in all of baseball, have been disappointing. Bryan Abreu’s earned run average is 5.79. Ryan Pressly’s ERA is a sky-high 11.57 and closer Josh Hader, the best shutdown in the bigs, is at 6.00. The Astros are losing games late.

The Astros starting rotation is comprised mostly of seat-fillers. The Astros are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room for Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers to be declared fit for battle. McCullers’ contribution to the team in recent years has primarily been confined to H-E-B commercials.

Impatient fans and copy-hungry media need a target to blame for the Astros’ slow start and they’ve zero’d in on first baseman Jose Abreu.

For good reason. Abreu, 37, a former American League MVP, is being paid 19.5 million this year and next. He is having a miserable time at the plate. Originally slated for No. 5 in the batting order, now dropped to No. 7 and sinking in the west, Abreu is hitting a paltry .088. But that number actually is deceptively positive. He has three hits (all singles) in 34 at bats, with 12 strikeouts, no home runs and no RBI. Frankly one of Abreu's singles was a pity hit from a friendly scorekeeper who could have given Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. an error on Abreu’s weak grounder Tuesday night.

We can go all-analytics and brain-busting stats to explain Abreu’s troubles at the plate. But let’s use simple baseball language: Abreu is horrible. He’s done. Maybe it’s time for the Astros to cut bait. He is untradeable.

Abreu had a disastrous 2023 season, batting .237, the lowest average of his 11-year career. But after 12 games last year, he was hitting .271, not bad at all. Or as Larry David would say, pret-tay, pret-tay, pre-tay good.

This year he’s fallen off the end of the Earth. Fans groan as he swings meekly at breaking balls outside the zone. Or he fails to catch up to 95 mph-plus. Or he can’t connect on low inside pitches. Look, when you’re batting .088, it’s all bad.

Last year, the Astros actually had two, as Little Leaguers put it, automatic outs in the lineup. Abreu hit .237 and catcher Martin Maldonado blasted .191.

This year, it’s a tight battle between who’s the worst of the worst. Maldy is hitting .091 with two hits in 22 at bats and no RBI for Abreu’s old team, the Chicago White Sox. Abreu is hitting .088 for Maldonado’s old team, the Astros. This could go down to the last week of the season.

If Abreu is still with the Astros at season’s end. The Astros are no longer the high exalted dominant force in the American League West. They can’t afford an .088 hitter in the lineup. They can’t play eight against nine.

It didn’t help when manager Joe Espada recently said, “I got a ton of confidence in Abreu. I'm not going to talk about strategy. José Abreu has been a really good hitter for a very long time, and I have 100 percent confidence in José that, at some point, he's going to start hitting.”

How long is at some point? Didn’t Astros fans go through this last year with manager Dusty Baker refusing to sit Maldonado despite Maldy killing rallies in a tight pennant race?

The Astros don’t have a strong support system, especially backing Abreu at first base. But there are options. Mauricio Dubon is a jack of all trades. He could play first. Despite the funny line in Moneyball, first base statistically is the easiest position to play in baseball. Backup catcher Victor Caratini can fill the gap until the Astros sign a free agent first baseman.

Or the Astros could do something that would light a fire under fans: call up rookie Joey Loperfido, who’s belted five homers and driven in 13 RBI in 10 games for the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

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