NCAA hoops: Texas, Tech bounce back with undefeated weeks; A&M fading

Shaka Smart and the Longhorns had a good week. Jamie Squire/Getty Images


Last week (2-0): W-Iowa State 73-57, W-Ole Miss 85-72

This week: Wednesday @ Texas Tech, Saturday vs. Oklahoma

After being dealt the most lopsided loss in Shaka Smart’s tenure at Texas, the Longhorns bounced back to roll through Iowa State 73-57. Mohamed Bamba had one of his best games of the season, scoring 24 points  on 9-11 shooting, while adding 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Kerwin Roach added 22 in the win. Defense was key again for the Horns, as they held Iowa State scoreless over the last four minutes of the game, and to under 40% shooting on the day. As great as Bamba was against Iowa State, he was even more dominant against Ole Miss. The freshman put up 25 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks to lead Texas to an 85-72 victory. Dylan Osetkowski was also strong in the win, putting up 17 points and 7 boards. The Horns will look to carry their momentum into this week, with tough matches at Texas Tech and against Oklahoma. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (13-8, 2-6 SEC)

Last week (0-2): L-@ LSU 77-65, L-@ Kansas 79-68

This week: Tuesday vs. Arkansas, Saturday vs. South Carolina

Texas A&M, who many in the preseason thought would be a force in the SEC race, may have fallen out of NCAA tournament contention this week. The Aggies fell to LSU 77-65 to start the week. Robert Williams and Tyler Davis were the bright spots for the Ags, scoring 21 and 12 respectively. Unfortunately the rest of their starters, DJ Hogg, Admon Gilder and Duane Wilson combined to go 3-22 from the field and 1-14 from 3 point range. The Aggies turned the ball over 20 times, and only forced 7 turnovers themselves. The Aggies had a chance to get their biggest win of the season against Kansas, but never had much of a chance, falling 79-68. Kansas built an 18 point halftime lead, and coasted to the win. The distance shooting continued to haunt Texas A&M, as their starters went just 2-12 from deep. Tyler Davis led the Aggies with 18 in the loss. The Aggies draw home games against Arkansas and South Carolina this week. 


Last week (1-0): W-South Florida 63-40

This week: Wednesday @ Cincinnati, Saturday @ UCF

Houston rolled to a 63-40 win over South Florida. It was a dominant defensive performance for the Cougars, who held the Bulls under 32% shooting on the day. Rob Gray, leading scorer for the Cougars on the season, scored only 2 points, but Fabian White and Corey Davis picked up the slack, scoring 16 and 17 points. The Cougars have two road games this week, taking on a strong Cincinnati team and a scuffling Central Florida squad. Houston is now tied for second in the American Conference with Wichita State, two games back of Cincinnati. 

RICE OWLS (5-17,  2-7 CUSA)

Last week (1-1): W-Florida International 73-64, L-Florida Atlantic 63-62

This week: Thursday vs. Florida International, Saturday vs. Florida Atlantic

Rice picked up a rare win last week, taking a 73-64 decision over Florida International. The Owls were strong on the glass with a +10 rebounding margin in the game. Malik Osborne led the team in scoring with 16, but Connor Cashaw put up an outstanding line 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists. It looked like Rice was going to get back to back wins for the first time this season, but Florida Atlantic hit a 3 at the buzzer to drop Rice 63-62. The game was back and forth all day, and statistically the teams were quite even. Cashaw led Rice with 16 in the loss, while Osborned added 10 points and 8 boards. Rice travels to North Texas and Middle Tennessee for games this week. 


Last week (0-2): L-Kansas State 90-83, L-@ Florida 81-60

This week: Tuesday @ Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Iowa State

It appears the wheels have fallen off for the Baylor Bears, as they dropped two more this week. The Bears fell to Kansas State 90-83 on Monday. Baylor had no answers for Dean Wade and Barry Brown, who combined for 58 points for the Wildcats. Baylor won the rebounding and turnover battles, but allowed Kansas State to shoot 57% from the field. Getting out of conference play for a trip to Florida didn’t improve things for Baylor, as the Gators rolled to an 81-60 victory. The difference in the game was at the 3-point line. The Gators shot an incredible 14-25 from distance, while Baylor shot only 3 of 15. The Bears are still winless on the road this season, and will start next week at Oklahoma before coming back to Waco to face Iowa State.  


Last week (1-1): W-West Virginia 82-73, L-@ Vanderbilt 81-78

This week: Tuesday @ Oklahoma State, Saturday vs. Texas Tech

The Horned Frogs had a very uneven week, gaining their best win of the season and suffering their most embarrassing loss. The week started out with an 82-73 win over the 7th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. The Frogs picked up their first win at home against a top 10 team in five years. Alex Robinson led the Frogs with 17 points and 9 assists. TCU had a strong defensive performance, tallying 7 blocks and holding West Virginia to 33% from the field. The celebration was short lived, as TCU traveled to Vanderbilt to take on the SEC cellar-dwellers and lost 81-78. The Frogs lost despite shooting 56% from the field and a +15 margin. Vanderbilt made 11 of 25 3-pointers and only had 7 turnovers in the game. TCU travels to Oklahoma State before an important weekend matchup with Texas Tech. 


Last week (2-0): W-Oklahoma State 75-70, W-@ South Carolina 70-63

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday @ TCU

Texas Tech got back on track after dropping three out of four with back to back wins last week. First, they took a 75-70 win against Oklahoma State. Keenan Evans had 26 points, 22 in the 2nd half, to lead the Red Raiders to a comeback victory. The Red Raiders trailed by 15 points at one point and battled back to outscore the Cowboys by 17 in the second half. Tech, who has been great at limiting opponent shooting percentages, allowed a strong 46% from OSU, but forced 20 turnovers in the victory. Evans and the Raiders weren’t done with comeback wins. They trailed South Carolina by five with six minutes left, and came back to win 70-63. Evans scored 31 points in the win, including going 13 of 13 from the free throw line. Tech came up big defensively in the last few minutes, as South Carolina only made 1 of its last 7 field goal attempts. 

SMU MUSTANGS (15-7, 5-4 AAC)

Last week (1-1): L-Connecticut 63-52, W-East Carolina 86-61

This week: Thursday @ Tulsa

SMU lost Jarrey Foster for the season to a knee injury last week. He was the team’s leading rebounder and 2nd leading scorer. Freshman Everett Ray is also done for the season with a broken foot. The shorthanded Mustangs felt their absence against Connecticut, falling to the Huskies 63-52. Shake Milton led the Mustangs with 18 points. The Mustangs shot just 28% from the field. That was not the case against ECU. The Ponies shot 62% from the field en route to an 86-61 thrashing of the Pirates. Jimmy Whitt and Jahmal McMurray put up 20 points a piece in the victory. SMU has just one game next week, a road tilt against Tulsa. 

LSU TIGERS (12-8, 3-5 SEC)

Last week (1-1): W-Texas A&M 77-65, L-@ Auburn 95-70

This week: Wednesday @ Tennessee, Saturday vs. Arkansas

LSU was able to take advantage of the struggling Texas A&M Aggies, taking a 77-65 victory in their matchup. Duop Reath scored 21 and Tremont Waters scored 15 with 9 assists and 8 steals in the win, which snapped a 3-game losing streak for the Tigers. LSU defended the three point line well, allowing Texas A&M to shoot only 21% from deep. The Tigers forced 20 turnovers in the win. Waters could only muster 4 points against Auburn, and LSU lost the battle of the Tigers 95-70. Reath was dominant for LSU, scoring 18 points, but didn’t get enough help to make the game close. LSU was -14 in rebounding against Auburn. The Tigers go to Tennessee and get a home matchup with Arkansas 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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