HOUSTON COUGARS

Cougars' confidence not dampened after loss to UCF

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Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson doesn’t consider the Cougars to be unique. 

He said the reason they had the nation’s longest home winning streak at 33 games snapped last weekend with a 69-64 loss to UCF was that nobody else had been losing and streaks like that are going to end eventually. 

“Teams are too good, and they’re too well-coached,” Sampson said. “You lose. That’s what happens.”

The Knights outscored the No. 8 Cougars 41-31 in the second half to hand Houston its first loss since Jan. 9 at Temple. It was the first home loss for the Cougars since March 15, 2017, and the first ever loss inside the new Fertitta Center. 

Houston senior Corey Davis scored a team-high 19 points for Houston and DeJon Jarreau finished with 15 points off the bench. Collin Smith scored 21 points for UCF and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

There was added hype around the game, as ESPN’s College GameDay was live from Houston in the morning. 

But Davis said that didn’t have any impact on the final outcome. 

“We were really focused, so it wasn’t anything we infested ourselves,” he said. “We just left it for what is was, and we’ll continue to work on when we normally do.”

Houston stayed in front for most of the first half and held a five-point lead at the break. The Cougars finished with eight turnovers in the game, many of which came in the first half and allowed UCF to keep it close. 

The Cougars did a better job taking care of the ball in the second half but didn’t score for more than five minutes, allowing the Knights to go on an 11-0 run. Jarreau scored 10 points in the second half and Houston led by two with two minutes left, but UCF hit eight late free throws to pull away. 

“We did a lot of things uncharacteristically, but let’s also give UCF some credit,” Sampson said. “We can’t sit here and say, ‘woe is us’ and feel sorry for ourselves. UCF came in here with a really good plan. They beat us. 

Most of the bracketology still has two-loss Houston sitting at a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament later this month. 

The Cougars welcome SMU to the Fertitta Center Thursday at 8 p.m. for senior night before finishing the regular season at Cincinnati on March 10 at 11 a.m. The American Conference Tournament begins March 15 in Memphis. 

“We’re 27-2. We’ll be okay,” Sampson said. “I don’t have any complaints. I want us to play better. I want us to practice and watch film and get better. I’m as big a competitor as anyone else, but you’re going to lose some games in college basketball.”

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