For UH, win over Western Kentucky an NCAA Tournament rehearsal
At halftime of Thursday’s game between the Houston men’s basketball team and Western Kentucky, head coach Kelvin Sampson went over to his junior guard Quentin Grimes and talked to him.
The Woodlands native had just tallied 21 points, which included a stretch where he scored 18 of them in a row for UH. But Sampson didn’t go to Grimes to congratulate him for the impressive scoring, instead, he was there to point out another stat line: 0 rebounds.
“If you want to be a complete player, you better learn to play both ends and rebound,” Sampson told Grimes during the break.
“He is a lot better when he rebounds,” Sampson added. “And that is what he did.”
The 6-foot-5-inch guard ended up garnering six rebounds in the second half. The most by any UH player in the period.
“It kind of humbles you, honestly,” Grimes told reporters after the game.
He didn’t complain about it though. He knows what the ultimate goal is that Sampson is trying to get his team to. It is why during this non-conference game, so late in the year, the Cougars used it as an NCAA Tournament dress rehearsal.
“Different conference,” senior forward Justin Gorham said. “First round you don’t know who you will play. It could be a school from anywhere, so we just looked at it with that mindset and knew that we couldn’t lose.”
The Hilltoppers, who entered the game on a six-game winning streak and sit towards the top of the Conference-USA, were the perfect team to use as a gear-up game towards March.
For starters, they had junior center Charles Bassey, who is considered to be a lottery pick in next season’s NBA Draft.
He entered Thursday’s matchup averaging about 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. The Cougars, however, showed again why they are one of the top defensive teams in the nation.
UH’s preparation heading into the game was crystal clear.
“We knew what Charles Bassey was capable of,” Gorham said. “He is a great player, going to be in the NBA next year. But (the coaching staff) just gave us a great game plan.
“When he got the ball, make him uncomfortable and that is what we did. Started off with Reggie, then Brison came in and (Fabian). Not match his intensity but brought the intensity to him. We just shot them down.”
The Cougars held Bassey to only nine points and seven rebounds. Far below his season averages.
As a team, UH outscored the Hilltoppers 42-19 in the second half and held them to only 30 percent shooting from the field.
“We showed why we are a good defense,” Sampson said. “We were using our defense to create our offense and that is when we are at our best.”