COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT

NCAA hoops: Texas Tech keeps rolling along; A&M bounces back

NCAA hoops: Texas Tech keeps rolling along; A&M bounces back
Keenan Evans and Tech went 2-0 last week. Texastech.com

TEXAS LONGHORNS (15-8, 5-5 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-@ Texas Tech 73-71 OT, W-Oklahoma 79-74

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

Texas had a chance to make this a massive week, but it started with them coming up just short on the road against the top-10 ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders. Keenan Evans hit a shot at the buzzer to give Tech the 73-71 victory in overtime. The game had two consistent factors throughout: Evans was going to be amazing and the Horns were going to struggle from the line. In a tightly called game that saw 52 foul whistles, the Horns shot only 13-of-26 from the charity stripe in the loss. Kerwin Roach led the Horns in scoring with 20, while Mohamed Bamba had a 12 point, 10 rebound, 7 block performance. Texas was back at home on Saturday to face Oklahoma and their freshman sensation, Trae Young, who came in averaging over 30 points per game. Luckily for Texas, Young wasn’t himself, and scored only 19 on 7-of-22 shooting. The Sooners struggled from 3-point range, going only 3-of-22 from deep. Freshman Matt Coleman led the Horns with 22 points in the win. Texas gets a solid Kansas State squad at home before hitting the road again to face TCU.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (15-8, 4-6 SEC)

Last week (2-0): W-Arkansas 80-66, W-South Carolina 83-60

This week: Wednesday @ Auburn, Saturday vs. Kentucky

Texas A&M, on life support a week ago, may have taken a breath this week. They started out with a dominant win over Arkansas, 80-66. The Aggies took advantage of an Arkansas team that struggles mightily on the road, led by freshman point guard TJ Starks, who put up 16 points and 5 assists in the win. All five Aggies were in double digits scoring, and as a team they dominated the glass by a 45-30 margin. The Aggies kept the momentum going against South Carolina, getting another balanced offensive attack in an 83-60 victory. Admon Gilder led the Ags with 15 and Robert Williams was perfect from the field en route to an 11 point, 9 rebound, 5 block performance. The Aggies were brilliant defensively, holding the Gamecocks under 28% shooting for the day. This week will be huge for A&M’s tourney hopes, as they have a trip to Auburn and a home game with Kentucky on the schedule. 

HOUSTON COUGARS (17-5, 7-3 AAC) 

Last week (1-1): L-@ Cincinnati 80-70, W-@ UCF 69-65

This week: Thursday vs. SMU, Sunday vs. Tulane

Houston looked on its way to a massive road win that would have broken the nation’s longest home winning streak and all but locked up a bit in March Madness, but a furious Cincinnati comeback knocked the Cougars off by a score of 80-70. The Cougars led by 18 points in the 1st half, but gave nearly all of that lead away before halftime. Rob Gray, who led the AAC in scoring with 18.7 points per game, struggled to 9 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Corey Davis, Jr. led the Cougars with 18 points. Gray bounced back on Saturday, scoring 20 in a 69-65 win at Central Florida. UCF pushed for a comeback in the second half, but the Coogs stiffened late and held off the charge. The Cougars are back at home against SMU and Tulane this week. 

RICE OWLS (5-18,  2-8 CUSA)

Last week (0-1): L-@ North Texas 74-70

This week: Thursday @ Middle Tennessee, Saturday vs. UAB

Rice lost its only game of the week, dropping a 74-70 decision at North Texas. Rice led by nine with under 9 minutes to play, but couldn’t hold off the Mean Green. Once again, turnovers were the culprit, as the Owls had a -10 turnover margin. Connor Cashaw led the Owls with 18 points in the loss. Rice will hit the road to take on conference-leading Middle Tennessee before returning home to take on UAB. 

BAYLOR BEARS (13-10, 3-7 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-@ Oklahoma 98-96, W-Iowa State 81-67

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

Baylor had no answer for Trae Young, and the freshman scored 44 points in a 98-96 Oklahoma win. Manu Lecomte was strong for Baylor in the loss, scoring 29 points including seven 3-pointers. Nuni Omot was 6-of-6 from deep for the Bears as part of his 23 points. Young dominated though, including a 16 of 19 performance from the free throw line. He also had nine assists for the Sooners. Baylor was able to snap their four game losing streak against Iowa State, taking an 81-67 win over the Cyclones. Terry Maston led the Bears with a career-high 23 points in the win. The game was back and forth in the first half, but Baylor took control in the second half and never looked back. After the 3-point shot was so kind to Baylor against Oklahoma, it failed them against Iowa State. The Bears had to focus their attack on the inside, as they shot only 2-14 from deep. The Bears travel to Oklahoma State in search of their first road win of the season this week before heading back home to take on Kansas. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (16-7, 4-6 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): W-@Oklahoma State 79-66, L-Texas Tech 83-71

This week: Tuesday @ Kansas, Saturday vs. Texas 

The Horned Frogs picked up their second road win of the season, and their first since Jan. 2, with a 79-66 win at Oklahoma State on Tuesday. The Frogs shot the lights out, going 56% from the field and 67% from distance in the win. Kenrich Williams and Alex Robinson led the Frogs with 13 points each in the win, and TCU had five players in double digits for the game. The good fortune did not follow the Horned Frogs home, as they were blown off the court by Texas Tech 83-71. The final score was closer than the game. The Frogs trailed by 24 at half and were never close in the 2nd half. Vladimir Brodziansky led TCU with 18 points and 3 blocks in the loss. TCU will likely have 3 more shots to get a road win over a ranked team, and the first chance comes Tuesday at Kansas. The Frogs go home on Saturday to take on Texas. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (19-4, 7-3 BIG XII)

Last week (2-0): W-Texas 73-71 (OT), W-@ TCU 83-71


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

Texas Tech has worked its way into a 1st place tie in the Big 12 with another 2-0 week. The Raiders started off with a 73-71 overtime win over Texas that was essentially the Keenan Evans show. Evans had a career high 38 points on 9-13 shooting and 18-20 free throw shooting in the victory. He also hit the game winner as time expired in overtime. No other player for the Red Raiders had more than 3 made field goals in the win. The Raiders kept their momentum rolling against TCU, taking an 83-71 win over the Frogs. Evans put up 17 in the win, and Jarrett Culver led the Red Raiders with 20. Texas Tech gets Big 12 cellar-dweller Iowa State at home before hitting the road to take on Kansas State. 

SMU MUSTANGS (15-8, 5-8 AAC)

Last week (0-1): L-@ Tulsa 76-67

This week: Thursday @ Houston, Sunday vs. Cincinnati

SMU played just once this week, and suffered a damaging blow, falling 76-67 at Tulsa. SMU played without Shake Milton, and struggled from the field without him, shooting 38% from the field and 33% from three. Ben Emelogu led the Mustangs in scoring, putting up 24 points in the loss. The Mustangs find themselves firmly on the bubble for March, and have a rough week ahead of them with a road trip to Houston and a home game against Cincinnati. 

LSU TIGERS (13-9, 4-6 SEC)

Last week (1-1): L-@ Tennessee 84-61, W-Arkansas 94-86

This week: Wednesday @ Florida, Saturday vs. Ole Miss

LSU lost for the fifth time in six games, dropping an 84-61 game at Tennessee. LSU suspended two players before the game, and had only seven scholarship players available. Duop Reath led the Tigers with 21 points. Tremont Waters struggled mightily, going only 1-of-9 from the field in the loss. The Tigers were only 3-19 from long range in the game. Waters was much better against Arkansas, putting up 27 in a 94-68 LSU win. The 3-point shooting woes were gone at home as well, as the Tigers hit 15-30 from deep against the Razorbacks. LSU gets a road trip to Florida and a home matchup against Ole Miss in the coming week. 

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96 games down, 66 games to go as the Astros tackle a fairly significant series in Seattle to open up the figurative second half of the season Friday night. It’s actually just over 40 percent of the schedule remaining. With the Astros having closed within one game of the Mariners in the American League West it’s the biggest series possible for them as the season resumes. But it’s not remotely make or break. Measuring by run differential the Astros should already be out front. They have outscored their opponents by 49 runs while Seattle is just plus-19. The actual standings can be explained in no small part by this comparison: in one-run games the Astros are a pitiful 7-17 while the Mariners are 19-14.

The spectrum of outcomes this weekend ranges from the Astros sweeping and leaving the Emerald City two games on top, to getting swept and heading down the coast to Oakland four games behind. Of note, the Mariners beat the Astros in five of the seven meetings to date this season. So if Seattle wins this series it clinches the season series and playoff tiebreaker should a spot come down to it. The Astros and Mariners have another series to come after this one, three games in Houston the final week of the regular season.

Trade deadline looming

What may be even more important than this weekend’s games is who gets what done between now and the July 30 trade deadline. With Justin Verlander clearly not close to returning, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss both performance question marks, and both Ronel Blanco and Hunter Brown being asked to handle unprecedented workloads for them, the Astros’ rotation needs obvious fortification. The Mariners’ rotation is second to none in the American League and their bullpen is good. Seattle’s lineup is atrocious. The Chicago White Sox are on pace to be one of the worst teams of all-time. The ChiSox’ offense is a joke with a team batting average of .220. The Mariners’ team average is .219. Only the White Sox and pathetic Marlins are scoring fewer runs per game than the M’s.

The Mariners have 11 players with at least 100 at bats this season. Eight of them have an OPS of .690 or lower. Cal Raleigh has the highest at .734. The Astros have 12 guys with at least 100 at bats including Jose Abreu. Abreu, Chas McCormick, and Mauricio Dubon are the only .690 or worse OPS guys. Kyle Tucker is the Astros’ OPS leader by a significant margin, .979 to Yordan Alvarez’s .912. What’s that you ask? Who is this Kyle Tucker? 35 missed games and counting for “Tuck” with his leg bone bruise, with return not imminent. T-Mobile Park is a notably better pitchers’ park than is Minute Maid Park, but not enough to shrug off the Mariners’ offensive ineptitude. The Mariners team payroll is more than 100 million dollars below the Astros’ payroll. The Mariners have the clearly better farm system from which to deal. If Seattle doesn’t add offense, its ownership and front office will deserve a continued fade in the second half, on top of the Mariners’ 8-15 gimp into the All-Star break.

Don't forget about the Rangers

With the Astros and Mariners going at it this weekend with the division lead in the balance, a reminder that this is not a two-team race. The Texas Rangers rallying to take the final two games at Minute Maid Park last weekend sent up a flare that the reigning World Series Champions are definitely still in the picture. The Rangers sit four games behind the Astros, five back of the Mariners. If the Rangers manage to win their series in Arlington with the Orioles this weekend, they are guaranteed to gain ground on at least one team ahead of them. The Astros-Rangers season series sits tied at five wins apiece with three games left, it will be decided in Arlington the first week of August. The Rangers and Mariners play seven more times.

In broader view, as measured by opponents’ records, the Astros have the toughest remaining schedule among the three. Among the 30 big league clubs the Rangers have the fourth easiest slate left, the Mariners have the fifth easiest, the Astros have the 15th easiest. If the Astros ultimately are not to win the West, there is the Wild Card race to keep in mind. The Astros are seven games behind the Yankees, four behind the Twins, and three and a half back of the Red Sox. Those three currently hold the Wild Card spots. The Astros are also a game and a half behind the Royals. The Astros have already lost the season series and tiebreakers to the Yankees, Twins, and Royals. The Astros and Red Sox have all six of their meetings yet to come.

Remembering Ken Hoffman

This is my first column since the passing last Sunday of my friend and eventual colleague Ken Hoffman. I originally learned of Ken’s quirkiness and wit through his columns at the Houston Post. He was a big sports fan. Our friendship was driven in part by our shared passion for tennis. We played probably more than a thousand times over nearly 20 years. Tennis and baseball were Ken’s two favorite sports. His two favorite athletes were Roger Federer and Jose Altuve. Well, after he and his wife Erin’s son Andrew, who was a pitcher on Trinity University’s 2016 NCAA Division Three national championship-winning team.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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