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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Men's Basketball

Cougars host Huskies on Senior Day


Guard Rob Gray Jr. will play his final game in Houston on senior day this Sunday against the UConn Huskies. | File photo/The Cougar

Following a convincing 69-56 win on the road against the SMU Mustangs, the men’s basketball team is 23-6 and returning for their senior night and regular season finale game Sunday.

The Cougars are a perfect 14-0 at H&PE Arena this season and will look to make it 15-0 against the UConn Huskies. A win for the Cougars could earn them the No. 2 seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, but regardless, the team should look to use Sunday’s game to gain as much momentum as possible.

This has been another down year for the Huskies. After winning the conference tournament two years ago and a national championship two years before that, head coach Kevin Ollie has not managed to match his early success.

At 14-16 the Huskies are struggling to stay above .500 for the second straight season. But the Huskies are still an aggressive team to play against. Ollie likes to push the pace with his shooting guards, with three of them averaging double digits in points per game.

Despite their struggles, the Huskies are known for playing well in the conference tournament. They have made it at least to the semifinals in every year of the AAC’s existence. Given that they are coming off a win against the Temple Owls on Wednesday, if they can end the regular season with two straight wins, the Huskies might be ready for another deep run.

But before any basketball is played, the Cougars will take time to honor their four seniors, all of whom took very different paths to get onto the team.

This is a special day for the four senior players who will be honored. Guard Wes VanBeck not only started his career as a walk on, but he is the only athlete who has been on the roster for all four of head coach Kelvin Sampson’s seasons.

Forwards Nura Zanna and Devin Davis and guard Rob Gray Jr. all transferred to the team from JUCO schools; Zanna from LIU Brooklyn, Davis from Odessa Junior College and Gray from Howard College. Gray notably is 16 points away from moving into the top 10 all-time leading scorers for the Cougars.

Sampson has been able to get the best of Ollie and his Huskies in recent years. Sampson has won three of the last four meetings, all of which were at UConn.

But the last time these two teams matched up was in the quarterfinals of last year’s AAC Tournament. On that day the Huskies upset the Cougars 74-65, avenging two earlier losses to the Cougars that season.

The Cougars must slow down the Huskies’ offense by stopping their engine, junior point guard Jalen Adams. Adams has been one of the most productive players in the whole conference, averaging 18 points per game, 4.6 assists per game and 1.6 steals per game. He is top five in the conference in all three of those categories and has been the leading scorer for the Huskies in the previous two matchups against the Cougars.

Tipoff for Sunday’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m. at H&PE Arena with Senior Day presentations starting at 2:35 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.

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