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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Men's Basketball

UH confident season’s workload will payoff against Baylor


Quentin Grimes (24) of the UH Cougars and Jesse Edwards (14) of the Syracuse Orange fight for possession of the ball in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I MenÕs Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. | Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Quentin Grimes (24) of the UH Cougars and Jesse Edwards (14) of the Syracuse Orange fight for possession of the ball in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I MenÕs Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 27, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. | Photo by Trevor Brown Jr/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Throughout the week leading up to Saturday’s Final Four matchup, Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson has received a lot of praise for his leadership in turning the Cougars’ program around.

One of the aspects of Sampson’s coaching style that has allowed UH to thrive has been his delegation. From giving various responsibilities to his coaching staff, a trait he picked up during his stint in the NBA, a lot of that freedom has also extended to his players.

When sophomore guard Marcus Sasser was struggling to find his shot during the Cougars’ game against Rutgers in the second round in the NCAA Tournament, Sampson had to juggle between letting him play through the slump and managing the rest of the game. Ultimately, Sampson’s trust paid off.

“He couldn’t throw it in the ocean if he was standing on the shore (against Rutgers),” Sampson said on Friday. “But he made two great defensive plays and hit two critical free throws, so we don’t base our kids’ play on whether their shot goes in. We base their play on their contribution to the team’s winning, and that is what every player in this program needs to learn: how to help us win.”

One thing that allows the UH coaching staff to give the players that kind of trust is by emphasizing the expectations the program has. Every player on the team has certain responsibilities to hold up, and the Cougars are sure to highlight what they are.

“We teach our kids the difference between playing hard versus competing, and we hold them accountable to that,” Sampson said.

One example the UH head coach gave is how the team approaches rebounding. When they designate a time to work on crashing the glass the coaching staff does not allow for the players to just get by. They make sure the student-athletes use that time to improve that skill.

“We have no other choice but to rebound,” junior guard Quentin Grimes said.

It is why when they find themselves in tense situations late in games, the Cougars’ execution has been on point down the stretch as was the case against Rutgers and Oregon State.

“They believe in the work they’ve put in,” Sampson said. “They believe in the results. And when we get in tight moments, they believe those results and hard work will come through with them.”

When it comes to Baylor, it will certainly pose a tough challenge for UH, but the Cougars are more than willing to accept it.

During Friday’s availability with reporters, both Grimes and senior guard DeJon Jarreau talked about how great the Bears are, but for UH,  it is confident the preparation it has gone through all season will pay off when it matters most.

“I don’t feel like there is a lot of pressure just going off all the work we’ve put in,” Grimes said. “I feel like every round we get to, we get even more confident. I feel the pressure gets down less because every round we get to we feel like we are supposed to be here.”

For more on The Cougar’s coverage of UH’s run in the NCAA Tournament, click here.

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