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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Men's Basketball

Looking ahead to No. 17 UH’s buzzworthy matchup vs. No. 14 Texas Tech


UH guard Caleb Mills driving down the lane in a game against Cincinnati at Fertitta Center in the 2019-20 season. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

UH guard Caleb Mills driving down the lane in a game against Cincinnati at Fertitta Center in the 2019-20 season. Mills made his 2020-21 season debut on Friday against Boise State. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

After opening its first two games at Fertitta Center, No. 17 Houston will travel to Forth Worth to play in-state opponent No. 14 Texas Tech on Sunday.

Both the Cougars and Red Raiders will enter the contest touting 2-0 records, with all wins from both squads coming off double-digit margins.

For the Cougars’ fans, the buzzworthy matchup will be a chance to get a taste of what they could not experience in March. For the UH men’s basketball team, Sunday’s matchup against Texas Tech will be an early test to see where it stands against a top 15 team in the nation.

“I don’t overreact to wins,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters last Tuesday before the Cougars’ season began against Lamar. “And I certainly don’t overreact to losses in November because I know you’re going to be a lot better in January and February.”

Sampson’s message of neutrality, to be expected from a head coach, was a similar one that he shared last season when his team took on the Oregon Ducks on the road.

Oregon, then No. 11 in the AP Poll in 2019, was undefeated entering the game.

The Cougars, who were still adjusting to the voids left by Corey Davis Jr., Galen Robinson Jr. and Armoni Brooks, among others, played the Ducks close in the first half but did not have enough to keep pace as Oregon pulled away late and won the contest by 12.

The contest served as a symbol that the Cougars were close but still behind the top-tier teams last November.

Similarities

Entering the game against Texas Tech, UH finds itself in a similar position as last season. The losses of Chris Harris Jr., Nate Hinton and Fabian White Jr. are the voids that have been left entering 2020-21, but this season’s team appears to have more talent across the entire lineup, especially in the backcourt.

Guards Marcus Sasser, Caleb Mills, Quentin Grimes and DeJon Jarreau are all returning players from a season ago, and are playing a bulk of the minutes again this year.

Added into the lineup of veteran guards was the four-star recruit out of Dickinson, freshman Tramon Mark, who showed right out the gates against Lamar how explosive he can be on offense. He scored 22 points in just the second half in that contest.

In the frontcourt, the unforeseen loss of White due to his ACL injury has forced senior forwards Brison Gresham and Justin Gorham to take a bulk of the responsibility, especially on defense and rebounding.

The Cougars have also had to rely on junior transfer Reggie Chaney for minutes at the forward spot, but also on freshman forward J’Wan Roberts, who redshirted his true freshman year in 2019-20.

Roberts will enter the Dickies Arena off the heels of a strong 14-rebound game against the Broncos, which Sampson said was what impressed him the most from that contest.

Impact of new additions

While it is still much too early to get a significant read on what the Cougars’ lineup rotations will be once the year gets in full swing, it is worthy to point out that Mark, Roberts and Chaney were the only new additions, who played against Boise State.

The other six players that saw minutes were all on the active roster a season ago for UH.

For Texas Tech, which has won both of its games by at least 30 points, UH will be its biggest challenge so far as well.

In the first two games of the season, Texas Tech has been led by two transfers. Junior guard Mac McClung, who leads the team in scoring, and senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva, who is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.

An important key to the Cougars’ success on Sunday will be how well those three, and any other of the new players that get in the game, handle the adversity of playing against a top-ranked opponent.

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