The Houston Cougars led by as many as 21 points in the first half before entering the break with 18-point lead. No. 17 Connecticut would storm back, taking its first lead with less than four minutes to play on a DeAndre Daniels three. Despite blowing the game-long lead the Cougars battled back and pulled off a 75-71 upset at home on New Year’s Even in the program’s first league game in the American Athletic Conference.
Houston came off the gates without lot of energy, flat out playing UConn. This was a Cougars team that was playing without L.J. Rose or Danuel House and had lost to both San Jose State and Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this month.
TaShawn Thomas was a monster on the inside. He scored 12 points in the first half and continued to roll in the second half, scoring a team-high 21 points, grabbing eight rebounds as well. Thomas also made two free throws to put Houston ahead, 73-71, drawing a foul — or not a foul as it appeared on the replay — on Tyler Olander, which was his fifth.
UConn’s star, Shabazz Napier went the first 19:56 seconds without a bucket, connecting on two free throws just before halftime. Essentially the entire UConn offense was quiet in the first half, minus Ryan Boatright. Napier, who ended with a game-high 28, tried to pull off another heroic comeback, but missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 45 seconds left. After Thomas’ two free throws, Napier rushed the ball up the floor, but met a pair of defenders at the hoop as Thomas swatted Napier’s shot off the backboard.