UH win over USF a sample of its potential: ‘We still have a high ceiling’
No. 8 Houston got back to its winning ways against the American Athletic Conference when it took down South Florida on Wednesday, but what stood out from the victory wasn’t the double-digit margin, instead, it was the team’s selfless identity.
Senior guard DeJon Jarreau, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, had a strong night for the Cougars (17-2, 11-2 AAC), particularly early on as it seemed like every time UH scored, the Louisiana native was the orchestrator behind it.
“DeJon was the key to the engine tonight,” UH head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters after the game.
And yet, most of the guard’s focus when he hopped on the Zoom call postgame was on junior guard Quentin Grimes, who had a nice game himself with 29 points and four rebounds, including a stretch where he hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions.
“When he gets going, there is no telling when he is going to miss,” said Jarreau about The Woodlands native. “He already has a pretty shot. Every time he elevates, he can elevate over people, but when he gets going, it’s over with. I just feel like he be on flames.”
When it was Grimes’ turn to talk after the game, the roles were reversed. The 6-foot-5-inch native praised Jarreau on his performance.
The Cougars ended the game with only three players in double figures, and their second-leading scorer in sophomore guard Marcus Sasser had an off night shooting the ball. He went 0-of-6 on 3-point shots. The lone game this season in which he has not made a long-distance basket.
UH, however, was still able to win by double-digits over USF. And while the game against the Bulls had plenty of areas where the team can polish up, it also had others where the Cougars showed signs of a truly elite team.
That run came at the start of the second half. UH only held an eight-point lead over the Bulls when the Cougars pounced, outscoring USF 29-10 in the opening 10 minutes of the period to build a 27-point lead.
“That was fun to watch,” Sampson said. “That was really good basketball.”
The Cougars made a concerted effort to play faster, the head coach said. One of the other things he wanted was to get Jarreau out in transition, which they did, and he produced.
“(Jarreau) was just outstanding, his point guard play,” Sampson said. “People will remember Quentin’s shots, but DeJon was the key to that engine tonight.”
After the buzzer sounded, the UH players could feel a little better after putting the tough loss to East Carolina behind them. Still, they’re not at a place where they can say they’re a finished product.
After the Cougars built the 27-point lead, the team played a few of the younger players as one unit, which led to a rally by the Bulls that forced UH to put the starters in the game again.
“We need those guys off the bench,” Jarreau said. “We do get tired. The second unit, we need them to come in and play like how they know how to play. Play like how they play against us in practice. At practice, it’s hard to stop them.”
For Jarreau, the key to getting those players to play at their best is their confidence.
“That’s why we still have a high ceiling because I feel like once everything comes together, and it is coming, I feel like it is going to be hard to beat us,” Jarreau said.