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Thursday, October 5, 2023

Men's Basketball

Three pillars of UH’s success on display in win over SMU

No. 6 UH forward Justin Gorham tracks down one of his 17 rebounds during Sunday's game against SMU inside of the Fertitta Center. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

No. 6 UH forward Justin Gorham tracks down one of his 17 rebounds during Sunday’s game against SMU inside of the Fertitta Center. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

The three pillars that No. 6 UH prides itself on were on full display when it took down SMU in a 70-48 win on Sunday afternoon at Fertitta Center.

The Cougars’ system — which focuses on rebounding, defense and taking care of the ball — carried UH to its eight straight win and 15th overall.

Heading into halftime, UH held only a four-point advantage over rival SMU. The Mustangs had given UH fits throughout the entire first period. SMU even broke the Cougars’ streak of not trailing in a game, which lasted over 180 minutes, and it had managed to hold the sixth-ranked team in the nation to only 34.5 percent shooting from the field.

“I told our guys don’t worry about that,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters after the game. “You’ll make them. The biggest thing was transition points. I didn’t think we were doing a good enough job in the first half of taking advantage.”

When the second half started, UH came out swinging. The Cougars hit the Mustangs with a 9-0 run, and SMU could not match the blow.

UH (15-1, 10-1 American Athletic Conference) saw its lead balloon up to 17 points just nine minutes into the second half, and raised it to as much as 23 before the game’s end.

Senior forward Justin Gorham garnered 17 rebounds and has now finished with double-digit boards in eight straight games. 

The Cougars held the Mustangs to only 24 points in the second half. SMU only shot 31.8 percent from the field and did not make a single 3-pointer. The team went 0-of-8.

“There are three core tenets to our program,” Sampson said. “Our defense, our rebounding and taking care of the ball, and I thought we were outstanding in all three areas tonight.”

When players first arrive at UH, that is the first thing that is drilled into them. 

“It is the culture,” sophomore guard Marcus Sasser said.

If a player doesn’t embrace it, they won’t see minutes on the court, senior guard DeJon Jarreau said. 

“I feel like we have a chance to win every game that we play in, so you know, that’s the three things we work on,” Jarreau said. “(What we) try to pride ourselves on … That’s how we win.”

Another thing that was on display for the Cougars was their depth.

Following Thursday’s game when redshirt sophomore Cameron Tyson led UH with a career-high 31 points. 

Sasser led the team on Sunday with just 19 points, shooting 33 percent from the field, and junior transfer Reggie Chaney was the only other UH player that finished in double-figures scoring-wise with 10, and yet, the Cougars won 70-48.

“That’s been a secret to our team for a long time,” Sampson said. “Our team doesn’t depend on one guy.”

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