"Are you blind!?"
"Do you need another preseason game?"
"You are HORRIBLE!"
The Mississippi State fans were none too pleased with the frequency of foul calls despite their team downing the Houston Cougars 76-68; but they might have a point, about the frequency anyway. You may have heard about the new "points of emphasis" in the NBA this season; it appears The AAC is going to emphasize all fouls this year. Houston head coach Todd Buchanan said that Friday night's game was "about what I expected."
In a battle between two teams picked to finish dead last in their respective conferences, the Mississippi State Bulldogs came out on top, but neither team did much to suggest they were wronged in either of those polls. They combined for over 50 fouls, 34.8 shooting and 39 turnovers in a game that was fast, frantic and sloppy.
Mississippi State played aggressive defensively, forcing the Cougars to make mistakes with the basketball -- but it also put the Bulldogs in foul trouble for most of the game. UH went to the free throw line 39 times and scored 25 of their 68 points from the stripe. Given the relatively close scoreline, the Cougars were disappointed they didn't take advantage of more of their chances from the free throw line.
Buchanan knows Bulldog head coach Vic Schaefer and his style of play well and he said that the Cougars were prepared to combat it. Knowing is half the battle, but the other half is execution and the Cougars did not do well enough in any area of the game to earn themselves a win in their first game of the season.
Houston started slow -- they only scored three points (on a 3-pointer) in the first five minutes of the game, but evened up the score at halftime. Sophomore Tyler Gilbert said that when the Cougars bought into Buchanan's system they started to play better. Buchanan said something to a similar effect, which makes one wonder why they don't just play his style (pushing the ball) the entire 40 minutes.
"Buying into a system" is a chicken and egg thing -- it's easier to buy into a system when you're winning, but sometimes you won't win unless you buy into the system. That'll be something to keep an eye on this season.
The Cougars started slowly again to start the second half but eventually cut the lead back down to just three points with a couple of minutes to go. A 3-pointer and some free throws put Houston away in the final minutes, but Buchanan was encouraged by the Cougar's fight. Well, the battles are just going to get tougher as Houston's next home game is against national superpower Texas A&M. First the Cougars will travel to Louisiana to battle Northwestern State, but it wouldn't surprise me if the minds of the players and coaches are already drifting towards the match against the Aggies. That's also dangerous.
What I saw from Houston tonight may not be the finished product, but if the Cougars struggled this mightily against a team picked to finish last in the SEC, they're going to have some struggles this season.
- There were 45 offensive rebounds tonight compared to 53 defensive. That ratio is usually not that close. You could call that a "paint battle" or a "lack of competent post play." Whichever you prefer.
- 57 personal fouls! 57! I love free throw shots as much as the next fan, but SHEESH.
- Houston shot 7-14 from 3-point range but only 32 percent of their shots from the field. They should work on that.
- The Cougars' effective field goal percentage was 46 percent. They should also work on that.
- Both teams missed a lot of buckets close to the rim -- they also did not convert on many second-chance points, which Buchanan pointed to as an area the Cougars need to improve.
- Both teams shot in the low 60s from the free throw line. This was not an offensive showcase.
- Martha Alwal only played 13 minutes (hello five personal fouls) but she looked darn good when she was playing. 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the field to go with seven rebounds. In 13 minutes! If she can stay out of foul trouble...
- Jessieka Palmer made three consecutive 3-pointers. That was a cool thing and helped energize the Cougars, for whatever that is worth.
- The crowd was light and the folks that were there (and most vocal) were supporting Mississippi State freshman Dominique Dillingham who is a local (Spring, TX).