Men's Basketball Sports

Cougars get back on track with big home win

Junior guard Cavon Baker was huge for the Cougars as he racked up 12 points and 10 rebounds.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Junior guard Cavon Baker made sure that the Cougars kept up their face-paced offense through the second half as he scored a career-high 18 points. | File Photo/The Cougar

Junior guard Eric Weary Jr. contributed 17 points off the bench, setting the tone and igniting the energy for a hot first half in the Cougars’ return to Hofheinz Pavilion Thursday night.

“In the first half we came out with a lot of energy,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “We had a lot of good play at both ends. Our defense was good. We went out on the break and got some easy baskets. We passed the ball well. Eric Weary was really a difference maker. He took a game that was kind of back and forth and just blew it open.”

The Cougars started out slow, but went on a 20-6 run to propel themselves to a 43-25 lead at halftime.

University of Texas- Pan American looked to get back into the contest in the second half, going on a 19-3 run, getting within eight points with eight minutes left. Sampson says at that point it was made obvious that they team had not played in enough games.

“We were up 20 at one point in the first half,” he said. “In the second half, you could tell that we played three games in a month. Most teams have played seven or eight; we’ve played three. We have eight new players. Every time we see something different on the court it’s the first time this group has experienced it together. So, we just need to play more games.”

Junior guard Cavon Baker took matters into his own hands in the second half, however, contributing 14 second-half points in his career high of 18 to balance out Weary Jr.’s first half performance.

“God forbid both of them play two halves,” said Sampson. “At least we got one out of them though. Eric Weary — I loved his confidence and body language in the first half. He came in and really shot the ball well. You could tell his self-esteem was really big.”

Weary, who says he brings a lot of energy off the bench and can help out when the guards are tired, looks to rebound, play defense, and do whatever Sampson tells him to.

“He already knows I can shoot,” said Weary. “He’s just focusing on my defense and my lateral movement and just playing harder. That’s all he really cares about is effort.”

Although seemingly in the zone in the first half, Weary says it was nothing new for him.

“It was a good feeling,” he said. “Not to be cocky, but I have plenty of those. As long as the team wins it’s all good for me. I’m just happy we got the win.”

Although the team is coming together, they are still finding their way. They have several guys out of position and they do not have a center. The anticipated return of redshirt junior Bert Nkali, who was penciled in as the starting center, may be a longer wait than initially expected due to a sport’s hernia that may require surgery.

Redshirt junior guard Jherrod Stiggers joined Weary and Baker in double digits with 12 points. He also had nine rebounds and seven assists. Junior forward Devonta Pollard recorded 10 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double.

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