A statement win for #6 in Cincinnati

Isn’t it funny how things work out?

Today, UH fans, following an entire season in the Big 12, a season they’ve dreamt about for 25 years, will be glued to ABC for the AAC Championship game.

Last night, Houston got big wins in Cincinnati (hoops) and Palo Alto (NCAA volleyball), and now turn their eyes to Uptown New Orleans for what they hope is the biggest win of them all (the Willie Fritz Sweepstakes).

Willie see how it plays out. Willie, or won’t he?

the daily #124 | 12/2/2023 | Archives

Championship Fortitude. Only diehards and gamblers are watching the first halves of Friday evening basketball games on FS1. But when a top-10 team is in a dogfight on the road, down the stretch, everyone has an eye on it.

“I like kids that prepare for the moments when no one’s there, for when everybody’s there,” Kelvin Sampson said after the game.

At 6:57 left in the game, Desmond Claude made two free throws to put Xavier up 52-51. The Cougars couldn’t make a shot, and they’d been horrific at the line (6 of 13 – 46.2%).

For the rest of the game, UH went 11/12 at the free throw line, the only miss coming with 10 seconds left and the Coogs up by five.

It was J’Wan Roberts who missed. As he told GoCoogs earlier in the week, when he misses the first, he’s been working to regroup, make the second, and try to make a play at the other end. So what did he do?

He made the second, then got down the floor and made a steal to seal the win. Sampson’s team showed that championship preparation. They made free throws when it counted, and they turned Xavier over five times in the last seven minutes (XU had one turnover in the first 13 minutes of the second half).

Burst Then Bust. The Coogs started fast in the first four minutes of each half, followed by brutal shooting the rest of the way.

In the game’s first four minutes, UH was 4/5 from the floor and 4/5 from three. Can’t start much better than that.

But the rest of the half? They shot 10/30, including 1/9 from three. Houston went 4/8 in the first four minutes in the second half, then shot 3/18 in the final 16 minutes. They were 2/4 from three to start and 0/4 in the last 3/4 of the half.

In total: 8/13 (61.5%) from the floor and 6/9 from three in the first four minutes of the halves. Then, 13/48 (27.1%) and 1/13 (7.7%) from three in the other 32 minutes.

Pretty incredible.

Our Ref Theory. Some of that UH shooting can be attributed to how the refs took over and erased the rhythm from the game. That should not be allowed to happen, but it so often does.

Two of the game’s refs worked the Butler/Texas Tech overtime game the night before in Indianapolis. They called only 24 fouls in regulation in Thursday’s game, but on Friday in Cincinnati, they called 32 fouls.

In the second half.

In all, there were 50 fouls called in the game. That’s horrible. It’s bad basketball, too.

More Physical Xavier was the more physical team in the first half. UH looked softer than all year. Xavier was aggressive, UH timid. They rebounded their own misses, UH didn’t. They attacked UH down low, and the Cougars fouled.

That’s going to happen on the road. Especially in the first road game. JoJo Tugler got in before the under-16 timeout in the first half and had the full “freshman in his first road game” carwash experience. In 31 seconds, he had an offensive board, a bucket, and two fouls.

But UH regrouped at the half, outrebounding Xavier in the final 20 minutes, and doubled them up on the offensive glass.

Lagniappe. If you were at home watching the FS1 feed, the announcers repeatedly bemoaned Xavier’s free throw shooting. Analyst Donny Marshall was pretty unlistenable, but it was funny that he said he didn’t understand all the misses because he was such a great free-throw shooter himself.

He was serious, too. He kept saying it. So I looked him up.

So yeah…



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