No. 8 Houston aims to avenge loss to Tulsa

NCAA

All the elements were there noting a performance worth lauding, and Houston’s dismantling of visiting UCF on Sunday provided a showcase of the Cougars’ excellence.

However, as evidence of how high the bar has been raised for the No. 8 Cougars, there was plenty to assess regarding how they could improve upon their near-perfect first half. The Cougars carried a 45-19 lead to the break after knocking down 6 of 14 3-point attempts and grabbing seven steals.

Ultimately, the Cougars rolled to their fourth consecutive win, a 75-58 decision that Houston (11-1, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) will use as a springboard for its rematch against visiting Tulsa on Wednesday.

The Golden Hurricane handed the Cougars their lone loss of the season, prevailing 65-64 on Dec. 29 in Tulsa.

As for the Cougars’ win over UCF, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, “Teachers are always looking for teaching moments, and we had plenty. A lot of good moments, too. If you listen to me .. you’d think we lost. But I’m pretty sure we won, right?”

Individually and collectively, the Cougars provided glimpses of what makes them formidable. They forced 20 turnovers and converted those miscues into 22 points, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds that resulted in 14 second-chance points, and limited UCF to 4-of-19 3-point shooting.

Houston’s Quentin Grimes scored 18 points, essentially matching his team-leading average of 17.8, while Justin Gorham added 15 point and nine rebounds.

In what has been a season of stops and starts, the Cougars appear to be finding their stride. Their scheduled road game last Thursday against South Florida was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Bulls’ program, and Houston responded with sharp practices that seem to indicate its upward trajectory.

The Cougars appear to have improved since their setback in Tulsa.

“We’re 6-1 in the league and we’ll just move forward,” Sampson said.

Tulsa (8-4, 5-2) can stake a claim to being a true conference contender if they can earn a second victory over the Cougars. The Golden Hurricane played from behind early in the first half against Houston before claiming victory late, a pattern Tulsa followed in its 58-57 win over Memphis on Sunday.

The Golden Hurricane trailed by as many as nine points in the first half against Memphis before rallying to victory. Elijah Joiner scored 14 points and Brandon Rachal had 12 to pace Tulsa.

In the upset win over the Cougars, Tulsa trailed by 11 points before recovering.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve had a couple of those games where we didn’t do a good job once we got behind and I think we struggled at Wichita the other night once we got behind,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. “But we’ve got some veterans, Brandon and Elijah in particular, and our conversations are always next possession. Continue to play, and we know it’s going to be that type of game.

“We’ve just got to keep getting stops, keep getting clean rebounds — just the stuff that we can control. And then the shots will start falling.

“We’ve got to continue to play the way we want to play.”

–Field Level Media

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