Cougars Lose Heartbreaker to Michigan in NCAA Tournament [UPDATED]

It was quite a season for the Cougars, who wound up ranked and won their first tournament game in three decades.
It was quite a season for the Cougars, who wound up ranked and won their first tournament game in three decades. Photo by John Royal
Correction 2 p.m. March 19, 2018: We incorrectly stated the last game UH had played in the NCAA Tournament was in 1983 before their loss to NC State. In fact, they made it to the Finals again the following year, losing to the Georgetown Hoyas.

Original Story:

The last time the University of Houston men's basketball team won a game in the NCAA Tournament, it was the final game before the championship against NC State. In that now infamous title game, the Cougars Phi Slama Jama team featuring Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler lost on a last second shot to the underdog Wolfpack. It seems only fitting that this year's team get ousted from the tourney in similar fashion.

On Saturday night, the Cougars lost to the Michigan Wolverines 64-63 on a last second buzzer-beating three pointer by freshman Jordan Poole. Much like that fateful night in 1983, the Cougars had opportunities to close out Michigan at the line but failed. The upstart sixth seed wasn't favored to win against a hot Wolverines squad, seeded third for the tournament. But they held their own all night until the waning moments.

Speaking to the media after the game, Coach Kelvin Sampson summed it up saying, "For 39 minutes, 57 seconds I thought we were the better team."

Unfortunately, those last few seconds really cost them as Devin Davis, who had gone 8-8 from the line in the game, missed 3 of his next 4 attempts that surely would have iced the game. Those misses left the Coogs vulnerable to an improbably 30-foot shot that was well defended.

As upsetting as the loss was for the Cougars, UH has a lot to celebrate this season. For the first time in what seems like forever, they became a ranked program. They won a game in the tournament for the first time in over 30 years and it appears Sampson has the program moving in the right direction.

The best way to deal with the sting of a loss like this one is to move on and get better. Recruiting season is right around the corner that this team has nowhere to go but up. For now, they'll have to spend their summers thinking about what might have been.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke