Any lingering fears that the Bearkats would come out flat coming off an ugly win against St. Thomas were eased very early on.
The Bearkats matched both the tempo and intensity of the Cougars from the start. It didn't take long before you got the feel that the game was going to be hotly contested.
As had been expected, the Kats looked to push the tempo right off the bat. Even with the Houston post players imposing their will inside, the Bearkats running offense always kept the Cougars at arms length.
Drae Murray hit a three to end the first half, leaving the Bearkats feeling good heading into the break trailing by just three.
Just as soon as the second half got underway, Murray launched another three to tie the game. Just like that, the tempo was off to the races again. The Bearkats rode this momentum to a seven-point lead, their largest, with 12 minutes remaining in the game.
From that point, the Cougars slowed their offense down and forced the Bearkats to defend them for all 35 seconds of the shot clock. On the UH possessions, the ball was fed early and often to Kendrick Washington.
With the tempo grinding, the Bearkats began to live and die with their three-point shot. Unfortunately, the season-long struggles with the long-range shot continued. As a team, the Bearkats made just eight of their 25 three-point shots. Lance Pevehouse had the most trouble, going two for 10.
In the last 10 minutes of the second half, there were five lead changes and four ties, all leading up to the final two possessions of the half. The Cougars controlled the ball with an opportunity to get a shot off and leave only seven seconds on the clock.
The Bearkats played tenacious defense for the entire shot clock and forced Kendrick Washington to take a fall away jump shot over Antuan Bootle. The ball caught the iron into the hands of Lance Pevehouse.
As Pevehouse began to make his way up the court, it appeared that Coach Jason Hooten was trying to get a timeout. The crowd was just too loud though. It nearly worked out for the better as Pevehouse found Bootle running down the court free. Bootle caught the pass but couldn't get his layup off in enough time. We were headed to overtime.
The Cougars controlled the overtime, thanks to solid rebounding and their free-throw shooting and were able to salt away the clock.
Washington led the Cougars with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He added three steals. Zamal Nixon kept the Bearkats defense honest by chipping in with 14 points on 50 percent shooting.
The one Cougar who largely went missing for this game was their leading scorer Adam Brown. Physical defense on the part of Josten Crow kept him largely in check. Brown was able to finish with seven points, but he was stuck on three until late in the second half. Proving that you can have a great game as a start and now score, Brown had eight rebounds and 10 assists.
Gilberto Clavell again led the Bearkats in scoring with 25 points. He was inefficient on his field goals, only making six of his 15 attempts, but he did make 13 of his 15 free throws.
Drae Murray might have played his best game of the young season as he added 13 points and eight assists.
The Bearkats need to quickly pick themselves up off the mat and get back into gear. Yes, they lost the game, but there were a lot of good things happening. They would be doing themselves a disservice to view this game in a negative light.
This tough stretch of non-conference games at home continues Wednesday night as the Bearkats take on North Texas at Johnson Coliseum.