Cougars earn big home win over Huskies
It was all three-pointers for the Cougars Saturday night at Hofheinz Pavilion as they took down the Abilene Christian University Wildcats in an intense 71-59 victory after coming to the game with a 3-1 record to hit the second leg of their five-game home stand.
With powerhouses like Michigan and Miami going this past week, head coach Kelvin Sampson knew an underdog ACU team would fail to back down from a challenge.
“I was sitting around today, and I was watching a school called New Jersey Institute of Technology against a top-20 school in the nation,” Sampson said. “They win at Michigan. Wisconsin-Green Bay wins at Miami, who is ranked No. 15 in the country. South Carolina Upstate wins at Georgia Tech. North Florida wins at Purdue. So you know what was thinking when I saw those? This is going to be a tougher game than people think. That team is scrappy. My hats off to their coaching staff for having their kids ready to play.”
The first 10 minutes of the game consisted of both teams trading buckets back and forth, with Houston holding on to a narrow 17-15 lead. Junior guard Jherrod Stiggers and junior forward Devonta Pollard both got off to hot start, combining for 14 of the cougars first 17 points.
Dialed in from long range, the Cougars made it to halftime with a 33-25, 14 points of which belonged to Pollard. The junior acknowledged, however, that ACU wasn’t going away easy.
“As we walked out on the court we saw how small they were; how little they were, we thought this team wasn’t going to be very scrappy with us,” Pollard said. “But at the end of the day, they came out and hit us first, and we didn’t know how to react to it.”
The Wildcats continued to battle throughout the second half and even moved to within two when LaDarrien Williams knocked down a jumper with 5:15 left in the contest to make it 59-57 Cougars.
Houston showed what they’re made of in the final minutes of the game, pulling away from ACU with a 12-2 run. s, and player of the game Pollard had the lone double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cougars stayed fresh through the game’s second half as junior guard Eric Weary Jr. was the spark plug off the bench providing 15 points, including three 3-pointers, and grabbing four rebounds in the win.
“You find out who you can go to in the last six or seven minutes,” Sampson said. “I don’t think I substituted. It was one of those nights where you’re fishing, and casting, and re-baiting, and throwing it out there trying to find something that works.”
Following a nine-day break for final exams, the Cougars return to action on Dec. 16 when they host the HBU Huskies at Hofheinz Pavilion. The cross-town matchup will be the third in a season-long five-game home stand for the Cougars as they hope to get senior Mikhail McLean and junior L.J. Rose back on the court after missing the early season with foot injuries.