If Friday night’s UH-versus-Harvard basketball game was sponsored by a letter, that letter would be B, for brick. If the game had a soundtrack, that soundtrack would consist of just one song, played endlessly over and over again — “Brick House” by The Commodores.
Charles Barkley, who heaved up ill-advised three pointers during his glory days with the Rockets, would probably even think both of these teams shot the ball poorly.
Harvard (5-4) won the game 57-56, hitting a layup with 1:12 on the clock. That was the final made shot of the night, a night that saw Houston (9-3) make only 20 of 60 shots for the entire game (a 33 percent shooting percentage) and go just six of 17 from three point range. Harvard wasn’t much better, making just 20 of 56 shots to shoot a sizzling 36 percent.
It was a bad night of college basketball supposedly witnessed by 4,004 fans within Hofheinz Pavilion and countless more who were watching the game on ESPN 2 and wondering why they didn’t have anything better to do with their lives on a Friday night. The game was so bad that at one point, the Cougars had a Brock Osweiler-esque assist/turnover ratio of 4/10, and for the game finished with just seven assists as opposed to 13 turnovers. But Harvard wasn’t much better, getting 15 assists on 14 turnovers.
“They made some tough shots. We missed some tough shots,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I knew — it was one of those games that whoever wins it, it’s going to be a great win. Whoever loses it, it’s going to be a tough loss. Two good teams. Both teams will learn a lot from this game and just move on.”
Despite it all, the Cougars still should have won this game. The team was up by nine points late in the second half as Harvard was seemingly either turning the ball over on every possession or missing a shot. But Houston had problems all night stopping Harvard’s pick-and-roll, and the Crimson just started running it nearly every play to stay in the game. Then Harvard went on a 8-0 run with about five minutes left to pull to within one point. At that point, it just seemed that Houston could do no right and would lose the game.
“You’ve got to finish the game, and we didn’t," Sampson said. "And that’s on us. We own it, and we’ll just get better from it and move forward.”
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So where does this leave the Cougars as the team heads into conference play this week? The simple answer is with a 9-3 record that Sampson said he believes should be 10-2. Sampson further believes his team played only one dud of a game to start the season, that being the 85-64 loss at LSU.
But Sampson says his team is beat up and dealing with injuries. He still does not have a timetable as to the return of forward Devin Davis, who injured his hand against Arkansas but is now also dealing with a foot injury. And forward Danrad Knowles took a tough fall against Harvard, banging up his head a bit and getting stitches. There’s also no rest for the team, and no time for the Cougars to enjoy Christmas, as they practiced Sunday night and fly to Connecticut Monday for a Wednesday game against UConn.
The team is still not as big inside as Sampson wants, especially with the injury to Davis. The Cougars, he says, have to play close to perfect with his big guys if they're going to win games. He says the big guys struggle to make shots (though Knowles has improved immensely), and he’s going to need to start hitting shots consistently.
The Cougars actually are a good shooting team, excepting Friday night, and were hitting nearly 50 percent of field goal attempts coming into the Harvard game. And the team, Friday night excepted, has a positive turnover margin and a positive assist/turnover ratio. So there is reason to believe that Friday night was just an anomaly, and that the Cougars are set to roll as the team heads out to UConn and then on to South Florida.