Houston v Kansas
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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kelvin Sampson never fails to deliver – postgame comments included. Four decades as a college head coach has given Sampson some perspective. There has been excellence in three Power Five conferences, a stay in NCAA jail, rebirth as an NBA assistant and spending the last decade raising Houston back to relevance.

So, a little thing like Saturday's 78-65 potentially season-altering loss at No. 8 Kansas wasn't going to change his outlook. 

Or his candor.

"Sometimes," Houston's 68-year-old coach summed up following his team's worst performance of the season, "you've got to give the other team some credit too. Excuse my French, but they shot the piss out of it."

Rock Chalk, bladder control? Yes, there was that -- for starters. Kansas shot 68.9% in one of the weekend's four top-10 showdowns, running the No. 4 Cougars out of the gym. KU had two separate runs of making seven shots in a row. The 78 points scored by the Jayhawks are the most the nation's No. 1 defensive team has given up this season. Houston's 24 rebounds were its fewest by nine this season.

In short, the Jayhawks took one of the feel-good stories and rubbed it in mud deeper than what surrounded Allen Fieldhouse on a rainy Saturday. Well, figuratively. 

Now, get out of the way for Sampson the historian. It's been 18 years between visits here for the former Oklahoma coach. He still hasn't won at Kansas (0-8 lifetime). 

"You're asking an expert [about playing here]," Sampson joked. "I'm the guy to ask on that one." 

Give the man credit, then, for knowing what was coming.

"Somebody made a mistake and told me we were actually favored in this game," Sampson said. "That's sacrilege. How is Kansas not favored in any game, especially here?"

That 1 ½-point spread at tipoff was a benchmark for both teams. On Saturday, Las Vegas recognized the job Sampson has done in his 10th season at Houston. Eight times the Cougars have won at least 21 games in that span. The last two seasons they've won 32 and 33 games. They have been to five NCAA Tournaments. The 2021 team went to the Final Four. If the tournament started Saturday morning Houston might have been a No. 1 seed. 

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks were an underdog at home for only the second time in the Self era, and the first time in three years. Self is now an incredible 320-17 at Allen Fieldhouse since he took over in 2003.

"I didn't know we were an underdog," Self deadpanned. 

Yeah, right. 

"You challenge the Jayhawk pride, if you will, by telling them they're not favored," Sampson said.

And so when the decibel meter on the scoreboard measuring the crowd noise broke 123, you knew. When 7-footer Hunter Dickinson dominated inside against Houston's (usually) stifling defense, you knew. 

When the hottest thing to come out of Australia since surfing blew up, you knew. Guard Johnny Furphy dropped in 17, missing only one of his seven shots. With that charming accent and dead-eye shooting – 54% in 21 games – Kansas has itself a budding star. 

"I know there's some competitive dudes over at the Centre of Excellence in Australia, but I don't think there's anything like that." Self said smiling.

The Centre of Excellence is essentially a training center for the Australian national basketball team. Furphy blew up last year at the NBA Academy Games in Atlanta. Neither of those settings matched what went on here Saturday afternoon. 

Underdog status just doesn't happen here. KU made 9 of its first 10 shots and the rout was on. Sampson's quotes landed a lot louder than most Houston shots in this Big 12 showdown.

"I still feel like they scored 90," Sampson said before ducking into his locker room. "It felt like they were getting 100."

"They're not going to play like this against everybody. But when you told them they were a 1½ point underdog …," he continued. "I can't get over the fact we lost by only 13. It felt like 110-40."

A program with a thin bench (Kansas) found a good time to play its best game of the season. That says a lot for a team that had already beaten No. 1 Connecticut, No. 5 Tennessee and No. 8 Kentucky

Houston's only three losses have come in the Big 12 by 4, 1 and 13 points – all on the road. Conclusion: Both of these teams remain Final Four worthy. The tournament is all about matchups, anyway. This one didn't go well for Houston.

But for one afternoon during the biggest weekend of the season to date, we do know this: Kansas out-Houstoned Houston – if that's a verb, and of course it isn't. But you get it.

Sampson is one of the game's true survivors. A couple of run-ins with the NCAA at Oklahoma and Indiana eventually landed him outside the game's circle of trust. He was handed a five-year show-cause order by the NCAA in 2008. That seems so long ago but deserves mention in this era when the NCAA suddenly seems on its last legs.

Sampson? Because he came back, that means the Cougars will be back even though his team playing suffocating defense left town unable to catch its breath. The team that leads the Big 12 in rebound margin was beaten on the boards 40-24. The team that leads in scoring margin (winning by 12.5 points per game) once trailed by 20. The Cougars hadn't trailed by more than 14 all season until Saturday. 

The two powerhouses got to halfway through the Big 12 schedule both 6-3.  They meet again in 34 days at Houston in the regular-season finale. Near the end of Saturday's game, the obligatory film clip from Apollo 13 played on the scoreboard with Tom Hanks saying, "Houston, we have a problem." 

Cue the decibel meter. Also, start the countdown to March 9. 

"This old lady in here today was special …," Sampson said of Allen. "[But] we weren't playing at the Fertitta Center today."