Cougars elevated by elite rebounding
Men’s basketball is in the midst of what could become a hallmark season for the program. The Cougars are 23-1 and have one of the best defenses in the country.
The hustle, toughness and grit that Houston has displayed is something head coach Kelvin Sampson has tried to instill in all his players since day one.
“We put so much emphasis on defense with rebounding and having a defined way we’re going to win the game,” Sampson said. “When (the players) walk out of that locker room and onto the court, they have a clear idea on how we’re going to win. Our guys understand what our culture is. People think it’s just a word, but it’s not, it’s our DNA.”
The players push themselves in practice and are constantly improving with the help of the coaches and senior leadership.
Senior Galen Robinson Jr. said earlier this season that he tries his best to help guide the other players and keep them on their defensive assignments.
“The way we play is who we are, it’s how we practice, how we prepare, and it’s what we demand out of our kids on a daily basis,” Sampson said.
Houston is in the top 50 teams with an average of more than 12 offensive rebounds per game, which has helped immensely in close games.
The Cougars’ rebounding on the defensive side is even more potent. The Cougars are in the top 15 in defensive rebounds with 29 per game.
All that combined has put the Cougars at No. 11 in rebounding margin and the best margin of the teams in the American Athletic Conference.
“We pride ourselves on defense and rebounding, so when we get stops it elevates our entire team,” said junior guard Armoni Brooks.
After the defense gets a stop, the offense can then go to work. The Cougars’ offense has averaged 75.6 points per game while holding opponents to just 60.8 a game.
While no single shooter has had insane shooting numbers night in and night out, almost any player can step up and go into the double digits when the team needs them.
Even when the shots are not going in, Sampson said if the shots are good choices, then he is OK with it. Just because a shot does not go in does not mean that it was not the right idea to take the shot.
“That’s not something I’m concerned about because we are so good at offensive rebounding. A lot of possessions we get two or three shots,” Sampson said.
A team can miss a shot, get a rebound, miss another chance and snag the rebound before finally making the basket on the third try.
In those situations, it was still a scoring possession, even though the stat line reads 1-for-3 and 33 percent accuracy, which looks bad without context.
“If you make the first one, everyone says you’re a good offensive team, if you miss the second, you’re a bad offensive team, but if you get the third one and put it in, you’re a really good rebounding team,” Sampson said.
There are just seven games left in the regular season and three home games remaining. Houston plays Connecticut at 6 p.m. Thursday up north and returns home against USF Feb. 23.