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Friday, September 29, 2023

Men's Basketball

Season off on the right foot with potential for more success


Head coach Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars’ men’s basketball team is off to a strong start this season, with a 13-4 record overall and a 3-2 mark in conference play. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

After starting the season off hotter than ever, the men’s basketball team is looking to prove itself actual contenders as it enters American Athletic Conference play.

With 13 wins under its belt, including Lousiana State University and conference rivals Temple University, Houston has shown it isn’t just a product of easy scheduling.

Although fifth in the AAC after winning three of its five conference matchups, there are 12 games remaining to play, and from the perspective of opposing teams, Houston is still viewed as an automatic win on their schedules.

Still evolving, the Cougars have potential to change their opponents’ opinion along the way—it’s just a matter of them going out and competing.

They have depth, their greatest value, big guys to place in the post, which they lacked in previous seasons, two true point guards, both of which have starting potential, and they have scorers.

Sophomore combo guard Rob Gray Jr., a transfer from Howard Junior College, emerged as a seemingly overnight success for the Cougars after being placed into the starting lineup because of an injury to senior guard LeRon Barnes. Gray leads the AAC in scoring with 17.7 points per game.

The Cougars are out-rebounding their opponents, led by junior guard Damyean Dotson, who continues to be a driving force for the Cougars. Dotson, a transferred from the University of Oregon, brings a different spark to the program, averaging 11.6 points per game and ranking in the top 10 in the AAC in rebounding.

Point guards Ronnie Johnson and Galen Robinson Jr. bring talent, energy and a breath of fresh air to Houston fans who watched the Cougars battle a large part of last season without a true point guard. Although Robinson is the starter, Johnson brings talent and skill, while Robinson plays hard with great energy.

The Cougars have elevated their game since November, growing into a better team altogether.

With their depth solidifying them into a more stable team, the Cougars, who are 10-1 inside Hofheinz Pavilion, must continue to improve defensively and carry that energy on the road to win against the better teams in the AAC.

Its record says that its a pretty good team, which is true. However, its a good team that has only been together for 18 months and will probably still be a step behind teams whose coaches have had more time to build the program.

It’s all a part of developing. One thing is certain: the Cougars are headed in the right direction.

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