Cougars ‘on to the next’ after win over Shockers, ready for UConn
The newly ranked, No. 25 Cougars return to Fertitta Center and start a brief two-game homestand on Thursday night when they take on the UConn Huskies.
Houston is coming off a dominant wire-to-wire 65-54 win against the Shockers, which helped rocket them into the AP Top 25. They enter their Huskies matchup with a 14-4 record and a 4-1 conference record, but the Cougars have already put Saturday behind them.
“It’s bigger than just one game,” said sophomore guard Nate Hinton. “That was a big milestone for us, (the game against Wichita State) we felt we had to get… but our mentality is on to the next. If you win a round, it’s on to the next one.”
Junior forward Fabian White Jr., who led the team in scoring for the second-straight game with 14 points and added five rebounds and two blocks, also shared Hinton’s mindset on not marinating in the win.
“We don’t really harp on every win that we have because the next game is the most important one,” White said.
Junior guard DeJon Jarreau had 12 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and added a team-high six assists, and junior center Brison Gresham had five blocks in the win.
Entering Thursday, Hinton leads the team and is second in The American with 9.7 rebounds per game.
The Huskies enter the game with a 10-7 overall record and are 1-3 in conference play, which is No. 11 in the American.
The Huskies are coming off a six-point loss to No. 14 Villanova, and in the game before that, they took the Shockers into overtime where they also fell short in an 89-86 loss, which has head coach Kelvin Sampson prepared for a tough challenge on Thursday night.
“They are playing their best basketball right now,” Sampson said. “Even though they lost to Villanova, I thought the best team on the floor that day was Connecticut.”
UConn, however, has not fared well in road games this season. The team has lost all three of its contests in enemy territory.
Senior guard Christian Vital leads the team with 14.2 points per game and is tied with junior guard Alterique Gilbert for the team lead with 6.8 rebounds. Freshman forward Akok Akok leads the team with 2.9 blocks per game.
“The key to (defending Vital’s) whole game is staying down on shot fakes because he uses shot fakes as kind of a catalyst for his game,” Sampson said. “He fakes you, gets in the paint, and he’s a really good one dribble pull up guy, so whoever closes out on him has to stay down on shot fakes and make him score over you.”
Houston owns an 8-5 lead in the series between the two teams.
The Cougars have won the last three-straight meetings. Thursday’s game will be the first of two meetings this season.
The tip-off is at 8 p.m. and will be shown on ESPNU and can be heard KPRC 950 AM.