Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13660490l) Houston guard Jamal Shead (1) is defended by Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Alabama Basketball, Houston, United States – 10 Dec 2022
The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and a big factor came down to late-game execution.
No. 1 Houston was unable to close out No. 8 Alabama after building a 15-point lead in the second half, and then it struggled to answer the Crimson Tide’s run as they eventually erased the deficit, took the lead, and won the game.
Alabama outscored Houston 13-4 in the final 5:34 of the game. After a slam dunk by UH senior forward Reggie Chaney gave the team a 61-58 win, the Cougars made only one more field goal the rest of the way and scored a total of just four points.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide got multiple baskets from Noah Clowney, the go-ahead 3-pointer from Mark Sears, and several free throws by freshman forward Brandon Miller.
Houston, on the other hand, missed five free throws in the final five minutes, four of which came from Chaney and one from senior guard Marcus Sasser. The Cougars also went just 1-of-8 from the field in the same span.
Despite the loss, the Cougars know that there is plenty they can take away from the early December meeting with the Crimson Tide.
“I think it is just a learning experience,” Houston guard Jamal Shead told reporters after the game. “This is our first real test. We had a top-10 matchup, so we can only get better. Those young guys, this was a real good game for them to really see the atmosphere that we are going to be playing in a lot this year, so we just got to move forward and get better.”
Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said he already had mental notes of things his team can work on going forward. One example was with freshman guard Terrance Arceneaux, who needs to be more aggressive when guarding players on the ball, Sampson stated.
Top to bottom, Houston was hurt by its inability to guard Alabama on the ball. The Crimson Tide excelled at beating the Cougars off the dribble and getting into the paint, Sampson said.
“They attacked our defense, spread us out, and drove [on] us,” Sampson stated. “And then when we would get there in position to help, they were kicking it out, and that is a hard way to make a living.”
Houston will have a quick turnaround following Saturday’s loss. It returns to action on Tuesday against North Carolina A&T. The Cougars will then face another top-10 opponent, this time on the road, when it plays Virginia on Dec. 17.
The next time the Cougars find themselves in a late-game situation, they hope they are able to use the lessons from this game to fare better.
“Just learning how to take control and execute on offense and being able to keep the lead,” said Sasser when asked how Houston can grow in late-game execution after the loss to Alabama.