No. 13 Houston has been charged with grinding its way through a pair of challenging opponents with a depleted roster, a chore that will continue in earnest when the Cougars close the nonconference portion of their schedule.
Houston (10-2) will host Texas State on Wednesday with guards Tramon Mark (shoulder) and Taze Moore (illness) unavailable and forward J’Wan Roberts questionable after he took a hard fall in the Cougars’ 72-61 victory over Oklahoma State last weekend in Fort Worth. Roberts, a tenacious offensive rebounder, was unable to practice with the Cougars on Tuesday.
While Moore appears likely to return in time for the Cougars’ American Athletic Conference opener against Cincinnati on Dec. 28, Mark seems poised to be sidelined for an extended period.
Without Mark and Moore, both 6-foot-5 guards, the Houston backcourt has been stretched thin with Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead and Kyler Edwards taking on additional workloads as freshman Ramon Walker Jr. ramps up his participation despite being slowed by a wrist injury.
“It catches up with you but that’s just the way it is,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said of the Cougars pushing through injuries against Louisiana and the Cowboys. “It’s been a while since we’ve been at full strength but you have those years. You just have to battle through it.
“We have a culture that’s as solid as a rock in place here, and that’s something I enforce every day. We can control the things we can control, and that’s life.”
Like the Cougars, Texas State (9-2) will complete its nonconference schedule on Wednesday. The Bobcats capped an unblemished four-game homestand with their 75-36 win over Paul Quinn last Saturday, a result that followed victories over Denver, Southwestern and Lamar. Texas State claimed those four triumphs by an average margin of 29.8 points per contest.
The Bobcats are riding an eight-game winning streak with a trio of seniors providing thrust offensively by averaging double figures in scoring: Caleb Asberry (13.9 points), Isiah Small (11.0) and Mason Harrell (10.6). Texas State features four seniors in its starting lineup, a core integral to the Bobcats claiming their first conference championship since 1998-99 last season.
Texas State labored a bit in the first half against Paul Quinn, taken aback by the NAIA opponent’s style of play. But the Bobcats adjusted their mentality at halftime and embraced the physicality, an approach that will be necessary to thrive against a Houston squad renowned for defense and rebounding.
“It’s the same thing I shared with them at halftime,” Bobcats second-year coach Terrence Johnson said. “I said if you think that this is a physical game, wait until the 22nd. The nonconference is there to prepare you. We take steps. Throughout the course of it all, it’s important that our guys understand that all of this is an opportunity to grow and develop. It’s preparing you for something. It’s purposeful and intentional and it will all show at some time.
“I think you need a game that’s going to make you better, and if we respond it will make us better.”
–Field Level Media