Every championship team wins some ugly games

The college basketball season is a slog. Since coming together around June 1, this Houston Cougar team has had six weeks of workouts and conditioning, 10 practices, a scrimmage, went to Australia for 11 days, played four games, another month of workouts and conditioning, another scrimmage, an exhibition, 28 games, and 100 in-season practices.

It’s been about 270 days, with players in the basketball facility – for training, lifting, meetings, film, practices, scrimmages, travel, and games – for at least 230 of them.

the daily #208 | 2/28/2024 | Archives

Not every day will be perfect. Not every day will be pretty. Surely, UH Basketball fans know that by now. Perhaps it’s time for some perspective. Here are two views of what last night looked like:

Example 1 –

“You could feel this coming today at shootaround,” he said. “We had a terrible shootaround. The focus wasn’t very good. The energy level wasn’t very good. It’s not anything from an attitude standpoint. It happens over the course of a season where you have days like this.”

Example 2 –

“If you had asked me my biggest concern, it would be the emotional high,” he said. “I could just tell in shootaround today we didn’t have a lot of pop.”

The first one came from Bill Self, the Kansas coach who saw BYU enter his building and leave with a win. It snapped an 82-game home win streak for the Jayhawks when leading at halftime, and it left Kansas three wins behind Houston in the Big 12 race with three games to play.

The second came from Kelvin Sampson, who won his 21st-straight home game and leads the league by a game and a half (Iowa State plays tonight).

Both coaches feared the energy level of their teams. One gave up a late lead at home and lost, pretty much eliminating his team from the conference championship race. The other saw his team allow the opponent to get within six points twice – for a total of 11 seconds – but won the game by eight.

Every coach deals with a low-energy shoot-around. Every coach deals with games where his team does not looking sharp. But did those guys compete? Did they push through?


Ja’Vier was a menace // © 2024 by Mario Puente

25-3. 12-3. 16-0. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1. 1.

That’s UH’s Record. Big 12 record. Home record. Spot in Big 12 standings. NCAA NET. Ken Pom. ESPN BPI. BartTorvik. AP Poll. Coaches Poll. Consensus bracketology seeding.

The Coogs made it to the Dance under Kelvin Sampson for the first time in 2018. From that season until now, UH has gone 201-37 (84.5%) overall and 177-29 (85.9%) in the regular season. And as I type on February 28, this team’s 25-3 record in the mighty Big 12 is improving even on those numbers (89.3%).


J’Wan was a menace // © 2024 by Mario Puente

You’re right: Houston did not shoot the ball well Tuesday night. The offense was stagnant. Guys are tired. Guys are emotionally spent. JoJo’s got an ankle. And some back pain. J’Wan’s got a knee. Emanuel was in pain. Jamal took a bump on the flagrant.

Yet Houston turned Cincinnati over 19 times on 15 steals, so it wasn’t a lack of effort. Cincinnati did outrebound the Cougars, but some of that can be attributed to their horrible shooting in the first half. All eight of their offensive rebounds came off three-pointers or jumpers, balls clanging long and giving out-of-position Cincinnati players an angle. On this comically bad trip down the floor, Cincinnati had 10% of their total rebounds for the game:

The Cougars need two wins to ensure a share of the Big 12 championship, but three more and they leave no doubt. UH has rarely played to their potential in the current six-game win streak but was always there at the end. And when a game needed to be won, they found a way.

Over the last three seasons, the longest win streaks in Big 12 games:

Kansas – 7 (2023)
Houston – 6 (2024)
Baylor 6 – (2023)
Houston 5 – (2024)
Kansas 5 – (2023)
Kansas 5 – (2022)
Baylor 5 (2022)

Kansas and Baylor have played 51 games in the league over the last three years; Houston has played 15.

Kansas went 9-0 at home in the conference in 2022. So did Texas Tech. No one did it in 2023. Houston is a win away from 9-0 at home (Iowa State is two wins from doing it). With wins at OU and UCF, Houston would go 6-3 on the road in 2024. Only one team has won at least six games on the road in the last three years (Baylor went 7-2 in 2022).

This Houston team can do something historic in the next 10 days. They can win the Big 12, go 9-0 at home in the league, 17-0 at home overall, and wrap up a one-seed with a path through Dallas. It won’t be easy – everyone is fighting for survival right now.

There are no ugly wins heading into March. It’s just wins and woulda beens.



CATS! from Fertitta featuring #1 Houston and Cincinnati


Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is proud to be a corporate sponsor as the Official Personal Injury Law Firm for the University of Houston Athletics.

“As a University of Houston alum, I am honored that the University of Houston Athletics chose our firm to be their official and exclusive personal injury law firm,” says Stewart J. Guss, the firm’s founder.