Kelvin Sampson: Getting punched in the mouth was much needed for UH
It’s not often that a Kelvin Sampson-coached team is not the toughest on the court, but that was the case on Saturday afternoon.
While No. 2 Houston entered as 19-point favorites, it was Kent State that landed the first punch — a blow that was much-needed for the Cougars, according to Sampson.
“This was a day for growth,” Sampson said after the game. “We needed this. We needed to get popped in the mouth.”
If there weren’t names on the jerseys, people might have confused the Golden Flames with the Cougars based on the type of toughness Kent State displayed from the jump.
“(Kent State) looked more like a Cougar basketball team than we did,” Sampson said.
Kent State’s swarming defense caused UH all sorts of problems taking care of the ball, forcing a season-high 23 UH turnovers.
“Oof” and “ouch” was all Sampson could say when looking at the stats postgame.
Even with the turnovers and shooting a mere 32 percent from the field, the Cougars found a way to come away with the victory thanks to their bread and butter — smothering defense and controlling the glass.
“I’m glad our guys know that on nights that we don’t make shots, we still know how to win,” Sampson said. “A lot of that has to do with our culture and how we prepare.”
UH dominated the boards, pulling down a Fertitta Center-record 56 rebounds, 16 of which came on the offensive glass.
“We outrebounded that team by 23. Soft teams don’t do that,” Sampson said. “We played tough too.”
Defensively, UH held Kent State without a made field goal for the final 8 minutes, 30 seconds of the first half. The Cougars put together another stretch of over seven minutes holding the Golden Flashes scoreless.
While it wasn’t pretty, the win exemplified what November, a month that Sampson has coined being about growth and development, is all about.
Months from now, while the narrow victory against Kent State will be long forgotten by UH fans, it might prove to be just the wake-up call that the Cougars needed if they are to remain one of the top teams in college basketball.
“If we’re going to get better, it’s important for our guys to know that they can find a way to win when things didn’t go your way,” Sampson said. “A lot of teams out there can’t win on nights the ball doesn’t go in.”