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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Men's Basketball

Kelvin Sampson on UH loss to ECU: ‘This one will haunt me for a while’

Houston senior forward Brison Gresham (55) is blocked by SMU's Tyson Jolly on Jan. 31 inside of the Fertitta Center. On Wednesday, No. 5 UH lost to ECU 82-73. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

Houston senior forward Brison Gresham (55) is blocked by SMU’s Tyson Jolly on Jan. 31 inside of the Fertitta Center. On Wednesday, No. 5 UH lost to ECU 82-73. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

No. 5 Houston was supposed to steamroll through East Carolina, a team on a five-game losing streak dating back to December, on Wednesday evening.

The Cougars, who have been atop the American Athletic Conference all season long, entered the game with an eight-game winning streak and a three-game lead over second-place Wichita State, and they were supposed to be a lock to win. The Pirates, however, had different plans. 

UH jumped out to an early five-point lead, but ECU kept its poise. By halftime, the Cougars had a lead, but it was only three, and the Pirates were grooving on offense. Once the second half started, ECU expanded on its momentum, took control and never looked back.

“It just seemed like we were a step slow all night,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Especially getting out there to those shooters.”

The Pirates went 11-of-24 on 3-point baskets for the game. Junior Tremont Robinson-White hit five of them out of six attempts, which was a new career-high.

Not all was bad for the Cougars in the loss. Senior guard DeJon Jarreau kept the Cougars within striking distance as he scored 25 points and had five rebounds and five assists while senior forward Justin Gorham had his sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Throughout the game, however, it seemed like ECU always had an answer to UH’s runs. A wide-open 3-point attempt, which resulted in an airball by junior guard Quentin Grimes encapsulated what kind of night it was for the Cougars.

“We just didn’t look like we were playing Houston Cougar basketball tonight,” Sampson said. “In no form or fashion.”

A dejected Sampson took the blame for the loss after the contest, saying he has to do a better job of getting his team prepared to play.

“This one will haunt me for a while,” he said.

Now, UH (15-2, 10-2 AAC) will look to regroup after getting punched in the mouth by the bottom of the conference Pirates. 

On this night, it was ECU (8-6, 2-6 AAC) that made all the plays and executed down the stretch as it earned its first win against a top-five AP opponent in program history.

“They deserved to win the game,” Sampson said. “Very rarely are we outcompeted, or the other team played harder than us. We hang our hat on being tough, but we weren’t any of those things tonight.”

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