Well, at least No. 21 BYU didn’t blow a big second-half lead in another excruciating Big 12 loss, this time to No. 4 Houston, on Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.

The red-clad Cougars almost did, however. The blue-clad Cougars just couldn’t seem to find it in themselves to let the visitors do it.

“This league is super tough. It beats you up. I think it tested our character tonight, and although things didn’t finish the way we hoped, I think we did an excellent job of playing for each other and staying together. It is easy for teams to fall apart in those situations, but we really came together. That will be super important moving forward for us.” — BYU guard Dallin Hall

BYU overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half in front of 16,553 at the Marriott Center, but when the home team absolutely had to have a big 3-pointer to pull off a mild upset, a couple wide open attempts didn’t fall and Houston escaped with a 75-68 victory to pick up its first Big 12 road win.

“Really proud of our guys. We just put ourselves in a position where we had a chance and we just couldn’t quite get over the top of it and we will keep battling,” BYU coach Mark Pope said.

“We have a really good team and a good group in this locker room and our product will keep getting better.”

Once again, the Cougars (2-4, 14-5) flashed the ability to hang with the league’s best. Once again, they just couldn’t finish. It has become the story of their Big 12 season.

Such was the case in their sixth conference game. One-third of the way through the conference season, the trends are continuing. Down the stretch, BYU just doesn’t seem to have it. The lack of a true go-to guy is part of the problem, along with no depth at point guard.

Hanging with the team that is No. 1 in the NET rankings, and No. 1 in Kenpom.com, showed the Cougars “what we are capable of doing,” Dallin Hall said.

“It also shows us that we have even more room to grow, which is exciting. And it is super frustrating to deal with all the emotions that all the guys are feeling in the locker room right now, but hopefully we can clear that out, come out tomorrow and work and understand the opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

BYU hosts Texas, which upset No. 11 Oklahoma in Norman Tuesday night, on Saturday at noon.

This contest against a better team from Texas was an opportunity the Cougars won’t get back. It was an upset chance that was right there for the taking. BYU students were getting ready to storm the court. Security was getting ready as well.

Midway through the second half, that would have seemed laughable.

Houston (4-2, 17-2) led by 13 points in the second half, but BYU rallied back and tied it on a Noah Waterman 3-pointer with 2:15 left.

The Cougars wouldn’t score again. Houston didn’t make a field goal in the final four minutes but went 7 of 8 from the free-throw line to secure the win.

“Thrilled for the win. Happy for our kids. Tough place to play,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson. “How they create their home court advantage is Big 12ish.”

Pope credited the home crowd “for playing a large part in helping us scrap into this game.”

The crowd couldn’t make wide-open 3-pointers. Neither could the Cougars.

Trevin Knell and Richie Saunders both missed open triples in the final minute. Knell’s attempt with 45 seconds left would have given BYU the lead. Saunders’ attempt from the base line, a shot he’s drilled dozens of times this season already, would have tied it.

Houston’s J’Wan Roberts made 1 of 2 free throws and Emanuel Sharp made both of his to give Houston a 71-68 lead before Saunders’ attempt.

Speaking of Roberts’ free throws, Pope acknowledged that he had Fouss Traore purposefully foul the big man in hopes that the 52% free throw shooter would misfire.

“Yeah, we felt like then we were taking our chances numbers-wise, with both their bigs shooting close to 50%. We felt like with them shooting into the ROC (BYU’s student section) it was even more advantageous for us,” Pope said.

“In games like this, those are the types of risks that you take. It helped us with the clock, which was something that was important to us and gave us a chance to get the ball back.”

BYU was supposed to be the better 3-point shooting team, Houston the better defensive team, but that’s not how it played out Tuesday night.

Houston built its 41-34 halftime lead by going 6 of 12 from 3-point range, while BYU was 6 of 18 in the first 20 minutes. The red Cougars finished 10 of 23 from deep, while BYU was 11 of 38.

The other key stats were Houston’s 17-7 advantage in points off turnovers, and its 15 second-chance points. BYU had just seven second-chance points.

Midway through the second half, when the game started to get away from them and Houston moved out to a 56-43 lead, the blue Cougars put up some really deep 3-pointers, so many that even Sampson was amused.

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Jaxson “Robinson nailed one from 40 feet with 20 (seconds) on the shot clock,” Sampson marveled.

Most of the long bombs didn’t come close, however. Robinson was 2 of 10 from deep, while Knell was 1 of 7.

It’s tough to win that way, in the Marriott Center or not.

Some of the whistles were also tough on BYU, as Hall and Knell both had three fouls apiece in the first half.

Hall, BYU’s only bona fide point guard with Trey Stewart not being able to get out of Pope’s doghouse, for some reason, picked up his fourth on a very questionable offensive foul with 17:58 remaining.

“This league is super tough. It beats you up. I think it tested our character tonight, and although things didn’t finish the way we hoped, I think we did an excellent job of playing for each other and staying together,” Hall said.

“It is easy for teams to fall apart in those situations, but we really came together. That will be super important moving forward for us.”

Because more opportunities will come BYU’s way in its final 12 Big 12 games. Watch out for the Cougars when they learn how to finish.