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5th-ranked Houston loses 65-64 at Tulsa

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UPDATED: December 30, 2020 -- 12:43 a.m. CT

POSTED: December 29, 2020 -- 11:55 p.m. CT

TULSA, OK (Donald W. Reynolds Center) -- The 5th-ranked Houston Cougars men's basketball team lost 65-64 to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane Tuesday evening. Houston's Caleb Mills swished a baseline jumper with 6 seconds remaining to put Houston ahead 64-63.

"When Caleb made the shot, I felt 'Well, maybe. Maybe.'," Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game. "But, we had to finish it off. It just felt like we were fighting up hill all night."

However, without a timeout remaining, Tulsa raced the ball up the court; Tulsa senior Brandon Rachal received a pass near the three point line and attacked the basket. Rachal was fouled with 0.1 seconds left in the game. Game sank both free throws for the 65-64 Tulsa win.

Tonight's win over Houston is Tulsa's first win over a top 5 ranked opponent since November 20, 1996.

"We'll just go back to the practice court," Kelvin Sampson commented. "We need some practice time. I think we've had four games in 10 days. We need some practice time with our smaller lineup. Practice time with different things; and, maybe get our kids a little rest. But, happy for (Tulsa Head Coach) Frank (Haith). Happy for Tulsa. Happy for their kids. They fought hard; and, they deserved to win that game tonight."

Houston (7-1 overall, 2-1 in the AAC) struggled to make shots for much of the ball game. Houston missed 11 free throws (20 for 31) in the game including six (13 for 19) foul shots in the second half. Houston also was ice cold from the floor: Houston shot 35.7% (20 for 56) and just 33.3% (9 for 27) in the second half.

Tulsa (5-3, 2-1) made 18 of 22 free throws (81.8 ft%) and 20 of 48 field goals (41.7 fg%).

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Houston jumped to a 15-4 lead on 5 for 10 field goal shooting. Then, Houston went cold and missed five straight shots. Tulsa tied the game at 15.

"We got off to a decent start," Sampson acknowledged. "The lead we had earlier in the game could have been far greater had we made shots. We missed so many open shots early."

Coach Sampson continued, "If you go back and look at the tape, there's about five possessions there where we had good looks and just didn't knock them down. When we want to win on the road, you're going to have to make shots."

The Coogs missed 13 of their final 19 field goal attempts in the opening 20 minutes.

An indication of the night occurred in the closing seconds of the first half: Houston's Justin Gorham scored on an offensive rebound and was fouled. Gorham missed the foul shot. Houston led 30-29 with 8 seconds remaining in the half.

Tulsa guard Elijah Joiner dribbled down the court and got a friendly roll as the ball took its time before finally rolling through the net as the halftime buzzer sounded. Tulsa led 31-30 at the half.

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Gorham scored another offensive putback for a 40-37 lead in the second half; however, responded with 6 straight points. Brandon Rachal scored 4 of the 6 points.

Houston took a 44-43 lead with 13:01 on the clock; but, Houston went scoreless for 3 minutes and Tulsa went on a 7-0 run to lead 50-44 before Caleb Mills swished a three-pointer to end Houston's drought.

Rachal nailed a three-pointer for a 60-54 Tulsa lead with 5:51 remaining; but, Houston's switch to a zone defense disrupted Tulsa's offense a bit and Houston's Marcus Sasser rebounded his own miss and scored a floater to tie the game at 62 with 50 seconds remaining.

Tulsa's Rey Idowu split two free throws with 26 seconds on the game clock. Houston called timeout with 21 seconds remaining to set up a play. Quentin Grimes missed a three-point shot and the loose ball bounced off Tulsa and out of bounds.

Houston had the ball with 11.8 seconds on the clock. Tulsa called its final timeout to set up its defense. After the timeout, Mills caught the inbounds pass; took a few dribbles before attacking the baseline and swishing a pull up jumper with 6 seconds on the clock. Tulsa got the ball inbounds quickly; Houston didn't do a great job matching up defensively which helped Rachal get open and attack the basket and draw the fifth foul on Houston's Brison Gresham with 0.1 second on the clock.

Rachal swished the first free throw to tie the game at 64; and, he got a friendly roll on the second free throw for the Tulsa win.

Rachal finished the game with a game-high 20 points on 5 for 9 field goal shooting and perfect 8 for 8 free throw shooting.

Quentin Grimes scored 19 points (5 for 17 fgs -- 1 for 7 threes) to lead Houston. Marcus Sasser (4/15 fgs -- 2 for 10 threes) was next with 14 points. Caleb Mills (3/8 fgs -- 1 for 1 three) scored 11.

"This game, sometimes, comes down to making and missing," Sampson said. "They did a good job making their free throws tonight. They won the game at the free throw line. Our kids didn't quit. We weren't playing well. We switched up to a zone and slowed them down a little bit and got back in it. Caleb makes a shot on the baseline; and, then, they just run it up the court and we fouled them again. It seemed like that was the story of the night. We just kept putting them on the foul line; and, they kept making them."


Houston's next game is Sunday, January 3, at 6 p.m., at SMU. ESPN2 will broadcast the game.

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