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Catching up on the Houston Cougars

Looking at where the Houston Cougars stand after four games as they prepare to take on the Creighton Bluejays.


The Cougars have won a basketball game after starting the season with three straight losses. Houston hung with Texas A&M and lost to Mississippi State and Northwestern State by eight and four points, respectively. That elusive first victory came at home in a 66-61 win over North Texas, who does not figure to be very good this year (picked to finish 12th out of 16 in Conference USA).

Creighton averages 63 points a game (.8 fewer than Houston) but they are shooting a much more respectable 41 percent from the field and 79 percent from the free throw line. This figures to be a tough road game for Houston (every game figures to be tough for the Cougars this year) but if they come up with a win it will be their first win streak since January of this year. JANUARY. My goodness, this program has had its struggles.

The Bluejays (all one word, which looks funky) are 2-2 and are coming off a season where they went 15-3 in the Big East. They have wins over San Diego State and Minnesota and lost to Drake and Kansas.

Marissa Janning and Sarah Nelson lead the team in scoring at 18 and 16 points per game. Janning leads the team in assists and Nelson leads the squad in rebounding. Janning takes a boatload of 3-pointers (31) but has made the same as McKenzie Fujan (7). Forcing Janning into outside shots might not be a terrible policy given how infrequently she hits.

Houston last took on the Bluejays in December last year and Creighton blew out the Cougars 75-54. The Cougars are 1-2 all-time against the Bluejays. Houston will return home next week to take on Kent State in an early afternoon game.

Houston v. Creighton | 6:00 p.m. | D.J. Sokol Arena | Omaha, NE

Houston has just over a month until conference play begins to work out their kinks and there are plenty of kinks to be had. The Cougars are ninth in scoring, ninth in points allowed, ninth in scoring margin, eighth in free throw percentage, ninth in field goal percentage and tenth (last) in defensive rebounding. They are top-five in 3-point percentage because Jessieka Palmer and Alecia Smith have willed it to be so.

Six players have started for Houston and they have combined for 35 percent shooting from the field. According to my calculations they will struggle to win basketball games shooting at this clip. It's still too early to draw many conclusions from these numbers, but two of your starters shooting 29 percent (Marche' Amerson and Alecia Smith) is a problem.

Part of the problem may come from a lack of diversity in shot attempts. In their win over North Texas, only Amerson took more than 10 shots and Smith took nine. The other three starters combined for nine shots while the bench chipped in 18 of their own. The kicker is that as lacking in shot diversity as the Cougars were, they were far more balanced than a North Texas team who had one player (Briesha Wynn) take 21 of their 70 shot attempts. Oh, and Houston took just 47 shot attempts -- that's 23 fewer than North Texas.

The Cougars allowed their opponents to take 70 shots and as if that isn't dangerous enough they made only 27 of their 45 free throws. They shot FORTY-FIVE free throws in a game, held their opponents to 29 percent shooting and only won by five freaking points. Head coach Todd Buchanan talked about the team's poor free throw shooting after the Mississippi State game, but I'm not optimistic that a team that shoots 59 percent from the charity stripe through four games is destined to get better.

That being said, this team got Te'onna Campbell back on Wednesday and the senior played very well, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for her third career double-double. She came off the bench but played starter's minutes (30).

Tyler Gilbert hasn't earned a start yet but is shooting 56 percent from the field and averaging 6.8 points per game in just 13 minutes per. She can't shoot free throws (39 percent) and she hasn't attempted a 3-pointer yet but she is tied for third on the team with 20 rebounds.