UH back to its roots in rout of Cincinnati
The Houston men’s basketball team got back to its roots against Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, limiting the Bearcats’ possessions and rebounding the ball to push the pace.
The Cougars (18-3, 12-3 American Athletic Conference), trailed by one point early in the first half and then exploded, outscoring Cincinnati 32-7 to close the half, and only extended the run in the second half. By the end of it all, UH had left the Bearcats in the dust behind a 55-11 run.
“I feel like we needed this game to come out there and show people we are still the Houston Cougars,” junior guard Quentin Grimes said. “We are still one of the best teams in the country.
“We didn’t fall anywhere off the map.”
As has become the norm in the past several seasons, UH did it behind its rebounding and defensive identity against Cincinnati. The Cougars won the rebounding battle 47-31 and held the Bearcats to 5-of-21 shooting on 3-pointers.
“I liked our attention to detail, our maturity, and I like the way DeJon (Jarreau) and Quentin started the game being aggressive,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “That starts with rebounding. It’s hard to play fast.”
Against Wichita State, the Cougars struggled to stick with their identity. Jarreau and Grimes only had five rebounds against the Shockers. On Sunday versus Cincinnati, the UH guards combined for 13.
Another reason why the Cougars prefer to have their guards crash the boards is that it helps them get out in transition. A feat that they also struggled in against Wichita State last Thursday.
“If we get the rebound, we can just get out there and push it,” Jarreau said. “That (was) one of my best games in transition. I love finding my teammates in transition, and it’s one of the things that gets us going.”
As the push towards March is in full swing for UH, Sampson said there are a few things the team is focusing on down the stretch.
The first is getting the ball into the hands of sophomore guard Marcus Sasser and Grimes, who both scored in double-figures against the Bearcats. The second is to pick up the pace. Sampson said he wants his team to get at least 70 possessions each game because that is when they’re at their best.
With the return of senior forward Fabian White Jr., he is another player the Cougars are looking to get into a rhythm. Against Cincinnati, he scored 10 points and tracked down nine rebounds, an impressive feat for a player in only his second game off an ACL injury.
As Sampson and his staff scramble to fit all the pieces of the puzzle for the AAC and NCAA Tournaments, one thing is already clear. In order for UH to be successful, it has to start with rebounding the basketball.
“Somebody with diabetes needs insulin to live. Somebody with (asthma) needs an inhaler to live,” Sampson said. “Everybody has something to sustain them or to give them life. For us, we don’t just have to rebound. We have to rebound to live. We can’t win without rebounding.”