Defense saves day for UH in dominant rout of UTEP
Houston followed up Sunday’s lackluster first-half performance against Oklahoma State with a strong, aggressive showing in a victory over UTEP.
“The team is learning to play with each other and it is going to take a while,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “That’s why it’s disappointing when you lose a game, because we know how much we put into it, but we also know that we got to keep fighting and getting better and we did that.”
Even though the Cougars came out victorious against the Miners, and the performance on Thursday night was clear-cut better than the one against the Cowboys, the game was anything but smooth.
Houston’s offensive struggles continued to begin the game as it took them over four minutes to score their first field goal of the night. The Cougars started out 1-7 from the floor until a flurry of 3’s in a four-minute stretch after the 15-minute mark gave them a 10-point lead.
The streakiness on offense was not limited to the beginning of the game. Houston went on multiple scoring droughts that lasted over two minutes of game action including one toward the end of the first half, which lasted 4:12.
Houston also turned the ball over 12 times.
“We just (need to) take care of the ball,” Sampson said. “We got to get better at being organized in the first half. We just have to keep getting better at practice. We are a long way away.”
The defense is what allowed UH to weather through the inconsistent shooting.
Houston had 11 blocks in the game, six of which came from redshirt junior forward Brison Gresham.
“It’s the way I practice,” Gresham said. “I have had good practices the past two days, so I feel like my energy got brought over.”
When it mattered the most, however, Houston’s shots started falling when it needed to put UTEP away.
After a layup by UTEP sophomore guard Souley Boum that cut Houston’s lead to five, the Cougars went on a 16-0 run that lasted 4:39 and put the game out of reach.
“Coach called me to the sidelined and was like DeJon they are within five, so get us going, not offense, get us going on defense,” redshirt junior DeJon Jarreau said. “I just tried my best and went out there, gathered us together, said a few words, and the rest is history. We just took off.”