Cougars can’t overcome atrocious start in first Big 12 road game

AMES, IA – Houston Basketball dropped their first game of the season to Iowa State Tuesday night at the electric Hilton Coliseum. The Coogs were unprepared for Iowa State’s physicality and intensity early on and uncharacteristically turned the ball over 12 times in the first half. Down ten at the half, they came out of the locker room more composed and patient and chipped away at the lead. Just over nine minutes into the half, they tied the game at 41.

the daily #159 | 1/10/2024 | Archives

Some news, notes, and observations from Ames:

– The team did not return to campus until 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. The high winds in Des Moines caused a delay; staffers had talked since Monday about the possibility of not even being able to get out of town after the game.

– The game, which looked like a blowout in the early going, turned into a 40-minute war. UH players would sub out and come to the bench looking like they were about to fall over. Then, they’d sub back in and back into the fight. It was an incredibly physical game – like playing Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati teams.

– Iowa State is the real deal, at least at home. To be seen if they can do this on the road. Hilton Magic is real, though. Talking to Lauren Sampson on Sunday, I questioned if it was what people say. She said it’s even more. On this night, it definitely was.

– I’ve never seen a Kelvin Sampson team come out pressing so much. Turnovers, early fouls, not getting the ball inside, and bad shot selection were the story of the first half.

– I’ve also never seen a Kelvin press conference last 2 minutes like it did at Hilton. He probably spoke for 30 seconds total and was quieter than normal, morose, seemingly spent after the emotional loss.

– Ames received at least nine inches of snow between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. UH players like to say, “We’re built for this,” when discussing the program’s culture.

But I’m not built for this:


– Emanuel Sharp played very well in the game – 20 points on 6/12 shooting, five rebounds, and a steal. It was the most minutes of his career (37:04). He had two (maybe 3) three-pointers in the second half that rattled halfway home and then out.

– Some coaches, analysts, and fans get enamored with the “with or without you” stat; the +/- stat. But in a vacuum, it’s pretty silly. Emanuel was -9 last night (meaning Iowa State was nine points better when he was on the floor). Without Emanuel, the halftime deficit would have been much worse than 10 points and the Coogs would have never gotten back in the game.

– Fans must be ready for the brutality of this league. Ready for more games like this, especially on the road: defenses will attack, and UH has to move the ball better and make shots, or they will lose. Last night, the Cougars did not move the ball well at all. It got stuck in the corners, and Iowa State trapped relentlessly.

– On the flip side, Iowa State moved the ball crisply around the perimeter, especially in the first half. On the Cougar After Thoughts Show (CATS!), Galen Robinson said the ball moved around the perimeter like it was on fire.

“It seemed like they were almost using our defensive principles against us,” Galen said. “How we doubled the post, they were kind of waiting for the double, and they were kicking it to the other side of the court.

“I thought they had a good game plan as far as how to attack us and how to beat us.”

Check out CATS! – it was an entertaining and informative episode featuring The Godfather and the rest of the GoCoogs crew. Galen is getting really, really good at this:


– UH had cut the halftime lead in half by the under-16 timeout (15:07 on the clock). For the rest of the game, save 18 seconds, UH was within five points. For the last 11:22, save one possession, the Cougars were within three. But they could never get over the hump: UH tied the game twice and took a one-point lead but could never do more than that.

– J’Wan Roberts played over 36 minutes and finished with six points, eight rebounds, and three assists. He missed a crucial shot late but did his part, and the knee did not seem to trouble him.

– Starns mentioned this on CATS! but besides Emanuel, Houston was 2/16 beyond the arc (12.5%). You’re not winning games like that.

– The Coogs had one fast-break bucket: Jamal Shead blocked a shot, got the rebound, and took it in for a layup to tie it at 41. Iowa State did not give up any easy points.

– Play us off, Dana:

Iowa State 57, Houston 53

Kelvin Sampson on Iowa State | Cougars back to work Sunday | Talkin’ Bout Them Cougars | Scouting Report | Iowa State personnel breakdown | CATS: Starting Big 12 play

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