The No. 12 Houston Cougars will try to bounce back from their first loss of the season when they tip off against the Oregon Ducks on Wednesday afternoon in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas.
Houston opened the season with four straight wins before losing 65-63 to Wisconsin on Tuesday evening. The Cougars trailed 40-20 at halftime and rallied to outscore Wisconsin 43-25 in the second half, but it was not enough.
“They were 20 points better than us in the first half, we were 18 points better than them in the second half,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I’m a little bit surprised at how we played in the first half. We weren’t competitive, not a lot of emotion on defense.”
The Cougars will try to maintain their second-half energy one day later against Oregon, which is coming off a 62-50 loss against Saint Mary’s on Tuesday night. The Gaels advanced to play the Badgers in the tournament’s title game, while Oregon will vie for third place instead.
The Ducks started the season with back-to-back wins, but since then they have two losses in their last three games, including an 81-49 blowout defeat to BYU on Nov. 16.
Like Houston, Oregon struggled in the first half Tuesday. The Ducks had 15 points at halftime before posting 35 points in the final 20 minutes.
“We had six assists and we were only able to get eight threes (attempted) and couldn’t penetrate and kick and get the ball moving,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said, referring to his team’s overall stats. “Disappointed on the offensive end. Defensively, I thought we played really hard the first half, but then our communication broke down a lot in the second half.”
Houston’s Kyler Edwards hopes to carry his hot hand into his final game of the tournament. Edwards scored a team-high 18 points against Wisconsin, including 15 points in the second half thanks to 5-of-6 from long range.
Marcus Sasser added 11 points for Houston. He has scored in double figures in all but one of his first five games this season, including a season-high 26 points against Rice on Nov. 12.
Fabian White Jr. ranks third on Houston’s scoring list behind Sasser (20 points per game) and Edwards (14.5 points per game). White is averaging 9.2 points to go along with 5.2 rebounds.
Oregon’s Eric Williams Jr. will look for an encore after he scored a team-high 13 points against Saint Mary’s. He was the only Ducks player to finish in double digits, as Oregon hit just 39.2 percent of its field-goal attempts.
Altman hopes to see improvement after his team’s bumpy start.
“A lot of work ahead because we’ve regressed, and fundamentally we’re not sound at all defensively or offensively, and that’s my fault,” Altman said. “I mentioned that last time (after the BYU game). We make mistakes, we make fundamental mistakes, a lot of it I’ve got to get corrected. We’ve got to work together to do that.”
–Field Level Media