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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Men's Basketball

Non-sibling duos dancing Cougars into the postseason


Angela Harris and her non sibling Jasmyne Harris are two crucial factors. The women’s basketball team has won 18 games so far this season. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

 

Getting to the big dance always requires a partner. The NCAA Tournament is no different.

The men’s and women’s basketball teams, both ranked in the top three in conference, both sporting nearly identical records so far this season, each have their best chance in seven years at getting invited to the senior prom of basketball.

And each has a pair of athletes often mistaken for siblings who make up the brunt of their teams’ forward momentum.

JUCO bond

Redshirt senior forward Devin Davis and junior guard Corey Davis Jr. share a last name, but they took quite unique paths to get to where they are today.

Both started their careers playing at junior colleges: San Jacinto Junior College for Corey and Odessa Junior College for Devin, by way of Indiana University. Both were NJCAA First Team All-Americans at their respective schools and earned the recognition that got them onto the UH roster.

The two have worked hard to get to where they are today, and their unorthodox paths from JUCO to UH has formed a bond between them.

“Coming from JUCO, it makes you a lot tougher,” Corey said. “Me and Devin have a similar background and we kind of gelled as soon as we linked up with each other.”

Obstacles overcome

Devin has struggled with injuries in the past, dating back to a severe car accident while at Indiana. As a junior with the Cougars, he missed 11 games due to hand and foot injuries.

But he is finally healthy this year after making some key changes in his lifestyle.

“I’m doing the necessary things, stretching, making sure I’m in the training room with John Houston, who’s been my best trainer this year,” Devin said.

A healthy Devin has proven to be a key component for the Cougars this year. He leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game and has taken a much bigger role offensively, averaging a career-high 10.7 points.

Corey has been strong at the point guard position. While playing great defense, he has also stepped up on offense, averaging 12.8 points per game and providing consistent ball movement. He has been extremely efficient from beyond the arc, shooting a team-high 46 percent from three.

“Ever since I picked up a basketball, it’s just in my blood, and I just love the game that much,” Corey said on his passion for the game.

Ultimate goal

Their performances are a big reason the team is 17-5 and second in the American Athletic Conference. The Davises came up big in wins against the Arkansas Razorbacks and the Wichita State Shockers, and even in the recent near-loss to Cincinnati, the team appeared to hold its own against a ranked opponent.

“Being up eighteen points, we gotta take that as a learning experience, and we understand how good we can be,” Devin said about the loss to Cincinnati. “We gotta take positives away from it and learn from the mistakes we made in the second half.”

Just like the women, the men have not made the NCAA Tournament since the 2010-2011 season and have a legitimate chance on getting a bid this year if they continue their stellar play.

“It’s so important, not just to me, but I want the program and this team to be like the stepping stone for what’s coming after us,” Devin said on the importance of making the NCAA tournament. “I want us to experience it as a team and as a family. I think it would just be amazing, and we would remember it forever.”

‘Harris sisters up next’

Sophomore guards Angela Harris and Jasmyne Harris have known each other for a long time. The two first played against each other in eighth grade and later on the same AAU team their junior year of high school. It was their performances that made one memorable to the other.

“I was the best one on my team and she was the best one her team,” Jasmyne said. “We were both basically scoring all the points on our teams.”

Though they have no blood relation at all, it has not stopped other people from making that assumption.

“Last year we were going somewhere and we were checking in our bags,” Angela said. “The check in lady was like, ‘The Harris sisters — you’re up next.’ We had to tell her that we aren’t sisters.”

This mistake is not unique to that airport employee. Jasmyne and Angela both said it happens all the time.

Whether they are sisters or not, their chemistry is undeniable. They take the top two spots in total assists and points per game for the Cougars and are a huge factor in the team’s 18-6 record, their best start in six seasons. So far this year, it seems the team goes as they go.

Carrying the workload

Jasmyne has established herself as the premier scoring option for the Cougars. She scores difficult layups, open and contested threes and also dishes out several assists. The team rode a 35-point performance by her to come back from a 21-point deficit to Tulane in the first week of January.

Angela has made her role an elite defender. Her pesky defense means she leads the conference in steals (71). She can carry the offense, too, when need be, as she averages the second-most points on the team. Earlier in the season, Angela led the team to a comeback win over Texas Tech after picking up 17 points and five steals.

But in a huge loss to UConn, Angela was held to three points, Jasmyne was held to 23 percent shooting from the floor and both were forced into five turnovers each. The Cougars didn’t have production from their two best players, and as a consequence suffered their worst loss of the year.

The Harrises bounced back in the next game, each scoring 20-plus points, and the Cougars scored their highest point total of the season in a rout of the Temple Owls.

Every win this season came when either Angela or Jasmyne played well. When they both had good games, the team played as well as any other in the conference.

Only time will tell how far this team, now 18-6, will go, but they will go as far as the Harrises will take them.

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