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NCAA hoops: Huge week for UH; Baylor is back in the mix

Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars had a big week. UHCougars.com

TEXAS LONGHORNS (16-11, 6-8 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-Baylor 74-73 (2OT), W-@ Oklahoma 77-66

This week: Wednesday @ Kansas State, Saturday vs. Oklahoma State

Texas continues to be sort of a roller coaster ride. The started the week with a 74-73 double overtime loss to Baylor. The Horns, already the worst scoring team in the conference, shot horribly again against the Bears. They shot 36% from the field and a miserable 16% from 3-point range. Texas really was only able to stay in the game as long as they did because they shot free throws well, and won the turnover battle 13-5. Mohamed Bamba led Texas with 16 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. They followed it up by taking advantage of a scuffling Oklahoma team with a 77-66 win. OU’s Trae Young got his points (26), but Texas limited him to 7-of-21 shooting for the night. On the offensive end, Dylan Osetkowski was the leader with 21 points. Bamba added 10 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in the game. Texas won the rebounding battle 43-31. Texas really needs the coming week to be a good one, with winnable matchups at Kansas State and against Oklahoma State. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (17-10, 6-8 SEC)

Last week (0-2): L-@ Missouri 62-58, L-@ Arkansas 94-75

This week: Tuesday vs. Mississippi State, Saturday @ Vanderbilt

After starting 1-5 in SEC play, Texas A&M had clawed its way back to 6-6 in conference with back to back wins against Auburn and Kentucky. Then things fell apart last week. The Aggies first dropped a 62-58 contest against Missouri. The Aggies had averaged 82 PPG during their 4 game winning streak. Missouri was able to shut down the Aggie attack. Turnovers killed them, as Missouri scored 12 points off of 16 takeaways. TJ Starks and Admon Gilder both scored 14 in the loss, but the Aggie bench scored just 2 points on 1-of-12 shooting. Things only got worse over the weekend, as Texas A&M got housed by Arkansas 94-75. The Aggies couldn’t slow the Arkansas attack, and the Razorbacks hit just under 50% from the field. The Aggies, ranked third in the country in rebounding, were beat on the glass 45-33. Gilder and Robert Williams both put up 20 in the loss. The Ags will look to get back on track this week with games against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

HOUSTON COUGARS (21-5, 11-3 AAC) 

Last week (2-0): W-Cincinnati 67-62, W-@ Temple 80-59

This week: Thursday @ Memphis, Sunday vs. East Carolina

The Cougars continue to roll, gaining two of their bigger wins of the season last week. First, maybe their best win of the year, a 67-62 win against No. 5 Cincinnati. The win, paired with their earlier win against Wichita State, gave Houston wins over multiple top-10 teams for the first time since 1984, when they were runners up for the national title. The game started out poorly for the Coogs, as Cincinnati jumped out to an early 13-2 lead. Corey Davis and Devin Davis paced the Cougars with 16 each in the win. Things continued to click for the Coogs against Temple, as they finally got the strong road win that has eluded them, 80-59. The Cougars jumped out to a 15-0 lead, and the Owls didn’t score for almost the first seven minutes of the game. Corey Davis again led the way with 20 points. Houston was +31 in rebounding for the game. The Cougars, now confident they have a tournament bid locked up, face a down Memphis team and a bad East Carolina team this week. 

RICE OWLS (5-22,  2-12 CUSA)

Last week (0-2): L-Marshall 93-80, L- Western Kentucky 85-66

This week: Thursday @ Florida Atlantic, Saturday @ Florida International

At this point there isn’t much positive to say about the Owls’ season. They dropped two more games last week, starting with a 93-80 loss against Marshall. The Owls were solid offensively, but Marshall shot 57% from the field and 54% from 3-point distance in the game. Connor Cashaw led Rice with 24 points in the loss. The defense didn’t get much better against Western Kentucky, who blew out Rice by a score of 85-66. The Hilltoppers had their way from the field as well going 56% overall and 56% from distance. Malik Osborne led the Owls in scoring with 15. They limp into the week with road games against Florida Atlantic and Florida International, who provided Rice one of their five wins this season. 

BAYLOR BEARS (17-10, 7-7 BIG XII)

Last week (2-0): W-@ Texas 74-73 (2OT), W-Texas Tech 59-57

This week: Tuesday vs. West Virginia, Saturday @ TCU

Baylor, once 2-7 in the conference and basically left for dead as far as tourney prospects go, have ripped off a five-game win streak, and now likely find themselves on the good side of the bubble. This week went well, as they started off with a double overtime win at Texas 74-73. Jo-Lual Acuil had a put-back dunk to win it for the Bears. Terry Maston led the Bears with 26 points in the win. The Bears dominated the glass, with a plus-12 rebounding margin for the game. Baylor then overcame a poor shooting performance against Texas Tech to take a 59-57 win over the Red Raiders. The Bears shot just 33% from the field, but held Tech to 39% and won the turnover battle 18-12. Maston sparked the Bears again with 24 points in the win. Baylor will look to keep the momentum going with matchups against West Virginia and TCU this week. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (18-9, 6-8 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-@ West Virginia 82-66, W-Oklahoma State 90-70

This week: Wednesday @ Iowa State, Saturday vs. Baylor 

The Horned Frogs were let down by their defense in Morgantown, as West Virginia shot 51% from the field and 56% from 3-point range in an 82-66 loss for TCU. Desmond Bane led the way for the Frogs in the loss, adding 16 points. West Virginia’s bench outscored TCU’s bench 38-8. Things got better for TCU against Oklahoma State, as the Frogs rode a dominant 2nd half to a 90-70 victory. TCU got a balanced attack with 6 players in double-digit scoring, led by redshirt freshman Kouat Noi. The Frogs were 50% from 3-point range on the day, knocking down 8-of-16 from deep. TCU goes to Iowa State on Wednesday before a crucial matchup with Baylor on Saturday. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (22-5, 10-4 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): W-Oklahoma 88-78, L-@ Baylor 59-57

This week: Wednesday @ Oklahoma State, Saturday vs. Kansas

Texas Tech got off to a great start this week, taking an impressive 88-78 win over Oklahoma. The Red Raiders held the Big 12’s leading scorer, Trae Young, to 19 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Young was 0-for-9 from 3 in the game. The conference’s second leading scorer, Tech’s Keenan Evans, put up 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting. The win was the 17th straight at home for Tech, the longest streak in the conference. Things took a turn for the worse against Baylor. Not only did the Raiders drop the game 59-57, but they also lost Evans in the first half to a foot injury that he didn’t return from. Coach Chris Beard has yet to say much about the extent of the injury, but Tech can ill-afford to be without Evans for any significant amount of time. Zhaire Smith led the Red Raiders with 15 points in the loss. Tech goes to Oklahoma State on Wednesday and returns home for a game against Kansas. Tech and Kansas are currently tied for first in the conference. 

SMU MUSTANGS (15-12, 5-9 AAC)

Last week (0-2): L-Memphis 70-67, L-@ UCF 52-37

This week: Wednesday @ East Carolina, Saturday vs. Wichita State

The wheels are officially off at SMU. After a 12-3 start, the Mustangs have gone 3-9 since and have lost any shot at an at-large bid that they may have had. This week started off with a 70-67 home loss to Memphis. Jahmal McMurray did his part, scoring 33 points including 9 made 3’s. The Tigers outshot SMU 51%-37%. The Ponies only shot six free throws for the game, converting on three of them. It went from bad to worse for SMU, falling 52-37 to Central Florida. The Mustangs shot a pathetic 25% from the field, and were 2-of-15 from 3-point range. Ben Emologu led the Mustangs with 12 points in the loss. SMU travels to East Carolina before returning home to face Wichita State on Saturday. 

LSU TIGERS (15-11, 6-8 SEC)

Last week (1-1): L-@ Alabama 80-65, W-Missouri 64-63

This week: Tuesday vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday @ Georgia

LSU fell to Alabama 80-65 on Tuesday in a game that saw the Tigers make just one field goal over a 13 minute run in the second half. They allowed Bama to shoot 55% for the game, and only managed 39% themselves. Daryl Edwards was the lone bright spot, putting up 21 points on 8-10 shooting in the loss. While the Tigers’ shooting woes continued on Saturday, they were able to pull off a 64-63 win over Missouri. Tremont Waters led the Tigers with 21 points in the win. Waters hit the game winner with 19 seconds left on the clock. LSU gets Vanderbilt at home before traveling to Georgia, so they face two teams this week who are below them in the SEC standings. 

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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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