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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Men's Basketball

With Rob Gray back in lineup, Cougars head to Virginia for Paradise Jam


Junior guard Corey Davis Jr. grabs the ball in the Cougars’ 83-51 victory over McNeese State at H&PE Arena. Davis finished with 12 points and 5 assists in 32 minutes against the Cowboys. Now the Cougars are headed to Virginia for the Paradise Jam tournament. | Marissa Reilly/The Cougar

After a strong all-around performance against McNeese State, the Cougars will look to keep up the good play when they start the Paradise Jam tournament Friday through Sunday.

This will be the first time in the tournament’s 15-year history that Houston will participate. The Paradise Jam is a short, three-day tournament in Lynchburg, Va. The Cougars are the only team from the American Athletic Conference playing in the tournament, which will feature eight teams total.

The Paradise Jam was set to take place in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but it has been relocated due to the recent hurricanes that devastated the Island.

Houston will begin the tournament against Drexel, a team that has had two of its worst seasons in program history in the past two years.

If the Cougars defeat the Dragons, they would face the winner of Mercer vs. Liberty. If they lose, the team would play the loser of that matchup. A first-game loss would allow the Cougars to place fourth in the tournament at best.

Tournament play has historically favored the Cougars. The team holds a 121-66 all-time record in regular-season tournaments. They won the Gulf Coast Showcase, which was their most recent tournament played at the Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.

Senior guard Rob Gray Jr., a John R. Wooden Award preseason top-50 player, will return to the Cougars’ lineup after serving a one-game suspension for participating in a recreation-league game at a church in March.

Houston enters the tournament in the top-20 in both field goal and 3-point field goal percentage. With the return of Gray for the Paradise Jam, those numbers are likely to rise.

Game 1 against Drexel will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday. The game can be heard on KPRC 950 AM and viewed at www.FloHoops.com. Houston is viewed as the odds-on favorites to win not only against the Dragons, but the whole tournament.

The tournament’s website is accepting donations for hurricane relief efforts in the Virgin Islands.

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