Record defensive performance sees Cougars past Bulls
Eight days after one of the biggest wins in program history, the men’s basketball team had another huge win over a conference opponent as they grinded out a 63-40 victory over the University of South Florida Bulls.
Freshman forward Fabian White had 16 points, junior guard Corey Davis had 17 points and despite a rare poor shooting performance from senior guard Rob Gray, the Cougars won with a double digit lead for the fourth time in the last five games.
The Cougars had two strong halves of defense that led to the lowest point total by an opponent since the 1992-93 season, when they held the Rice Owls to 36 points.
The Bulls were held to 17 points in the first half, as neither offense was able to pick up much momentum until a 14-0 run by the Cougars to end the half. It was the second game in a row that the Cougars were unable to rely on their three-point shooting. The Cougars were held to almost 27 percent shooting from deep. Only three players for UH registered a single three-pointer.
While the shooting was down from distance, the Cougars were able to do damage inside the paint. White was given many touches in the post and punished the Bulls’ big men. He shot 70 percent from the floor and led the team with 11 rebounds.
Unfortunately, White also gave the ball away five times. Head coach Kelvin Sampson acknowledged the positive plays by White, but he also was very aware of the mistakes the true-freshman made.
“I said ‘Fabian you do know we’re wearing white son,’” Sampson said. “I couldn’t understand why he kept throwing to the guys in green.”
Despite the troubles on the offensive end, the Cougars had another very solid defensive performance. The Bulls were ice-cold as they were held to 32 percent from the floor and seven percent shooting from three-point land.
The Cougars’ aggressive defense held the Bulls to a low scoring performance, but the physical play led the Cougars to commit several fouls. Luckily for the Cougars, USF also had a poor shooting night from the charity stripe (the free-throw line) as they shot 40 percent from the free-throw line.
The outcome of this game was mostly expected as the Cougars were playing last-place USF at home, where they are undefeated. While it was a win that was very convincing, the players and coaches understand that they have still have to get better to compete with the top teams in the conference.
After splitting the season series with Wichita State, the Cougars still have to play two games each against the Cincinnati Bearcats and SMU Mustangs. The Cougars will likely have to at least split the series with those teams to make the NCAA Tournament, a goal that presses heavily into the minds of the players.
“We talk about the tournament every day,” Davis said. “We’ve been working so hard all year and to have the fruit of our labor come through and have us actually make the tournament would mean a lot to us.”
The Cougars play next Wednesday against No. 9 ranked Cincinnati in Cincinnati to begin a two-game road trip. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.