It was the tale of too little, too late for the No. 17 Connecticut Huskies as they lost their first game of American Athletic Conference play to the Houston Cougars on Tuesday night by the score of 75-71. With the loss, the Huskies fell to 11-2 on the year and 0-1 in AAC play while the Cougars improved to 9-5 on the season and 1-0 in the AAC. The worst part for the Huskies: The Cougars were playing without three starters, including L.J. Rose and Danuel House who were out with injuries.
Taking a 46-28 deficit into the locker room at halftime, Kevin Ollie was able to inspire his team and the Huskies came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. At one point in the final minutes they even possessed a three-point lead. Shabazz Napier, who was silent in the first half and actually didn’t score a single point, scored 27 in the second half and finished with 27 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. The play of Ryan Boatright, especially in the first half, kept Connecticut from being completely annihilated and allowed the team to get their act together in the second half. The Huskies outscored and outplayed the Cougars in the second half, scoring 43 to their 29, but it was unfortunately too little, too late.
To add, the Huskies really had no answer for Houston big man TaShawn Thomas, which I predicted in a previous article. Thomas will continue his beastly ways and for sure appear on the First Team All-AAC at the end of the season. He owned the interior Tuesday night, putting up 23 points, eight rebounds, and a block.
The Huskies will continue to struggle against teams who like to push the ball and have a presence on the interior. At one point in the first half Houston had more points in the paint than Connecticut did as a team.
Connecticut seemed lethargic and unprepared in the first half and looked out of sync all night on offense which led to a lot of high ball screens and isolations for Boatright and Napier. There was very little movement off the ball, and it really got hard to watch.
The Huskies continue their road trip on January 4 when they take on Larry Brown’s SMU team. Unfortunately, that’s another physical, rebounding team. The Huskies may return home being 0-2 in their first two games in the AAC. Tip off at SMU is at 2:00 p.m. ET.