It's rivalry week in college basketball. Wednesday night featured exciting match-ups between Syracuse and Georgetown, Duke and North Carolina. With all of that going on, it was unlikely that Houston-Rice was going to draw any national attention.
The way the Cougars played, that's probably a good thing.
Wednesday night's 79-71 home loss to the crosstown Rice Owls was indicative of how the season has gone for UH, a disappointing repeat of last year's poor showing. There were flashes of athleticism and talent, most notably in the Coogs' game-opening 13-0 run. But ultimately Houston didn't play enough defense, and didn't look like it knew what it was doing in a half-court offense.
The Cougars actually ended the first half on a 7-0 run to cut an 8-point Owl lead to 1, but by the time "Mad Chad" was juggling chain saws at half court, it was just a distraction from Houston's inevitable demise.
Last year, the excuse made for head coach James Dickey - never one to make a lot of excuses himself - was that the team wasn't talented enough, Dickey being forced to make do with the group that was left him from the previous regime. This year, it will certainly be inexperience and injuries, the former one that's likely to crop up again next year, as two incoming freshman (Danuel House and Chicken Knowles), as well as a handful of sophomores-to-be (Joseph Young, TaShawn Thomas, J.J. Thompson) figure to make up the majority of the rotation.
But the truth is that Dickey hasn't come close to delivering on his promises of solid defense and rebounding. Even on a night like Wednesday, when the Cougars actually did a pretty good job on the boards, they allowed Rice to hit 30 of their last 46 shots from the floor, a staggering 65%. Inexperienced or no, that's not the sign of a well-coached basketball team.
The loss dropped Houston under .500 on the year, as they now sit at 11-12. Under Dickey, the Cougars are 20-30 against Division 1 competition, including just a 7-20 mark in Conference USA play. Most startling, Dickey is winless against Rice in three attempts. Houston had won its previous eight meetings with the Owls before hiring Dickey.