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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Men's Basketball

Cougars shake off bad shooting woes to stay perfect


Junior guard Ronnie Johnson had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in the Cougars’ 78-65 win. | Justin Cross/The Cougar

The Cougars captured their fourth win of the season as they beat the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros 78-65 Monday night.

Led by senior forward Devonta Pollard and junior guard Damyean Dotson, the Cougars fought through a slow start and a rough shooting night to get a win.

“When you aren’t shooting well, the game becomes hard,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “One of the things that we emphasize on a daily basis, and we literally sometimes practice with a bubble on the rim, (is) offensive rebounding. That’s a big part of our game, and tonight, you see why.”

The first half ended in a tie as turnovers and unfinished shots plagued the Cougars.

Houston won the rebound battle, as it had 23 total rebounds in the first period – nine of them on the offensive side of the ball. Yet, it only made six points off of its nine offensive rebounds.

The Cougars also struggled behind the line early as they only made two of their 12 three-point shots.

Junior guard Ronnie Johnson finished the first period with seven points and two assists. Pollard added nine points of his own. Sophomore guard Rob Gray Jr. had the most impact in the first period as he accounted for six points, two rebounds, a block and a steal.

The second period also stayed close until the last six minutes when the Cougars took over.

The offense finally had shots going in and the defense stepped up in the second period as it forced seven turnovers.

The team also added four steals and two blocks in the second period to seal off the game.

What kept the Cougars going was the rebounding all throughout the game. Even in the first period when they could not get shots to fall, rebounding was a strength. Houston had 47 rebounds with 19 of them on offense.

“What we did great tonight was offensive rebound,” Sampson said. “Now the next game we play, we might make all of those open shots, because we are certainly capable. What good teams do on nights when their shots aren’t falling (is) find ways to win.”

The first half ended with a 40.5 percent field goal percentage, but improved to 45.2 percent in the second. Houston’s field goal percentage finished at 42.6 percent.

Gray and Johnson finished with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Dotson had 11 points and 10 total rebounds for a double-double on the night.

Player of the Game: Devonta Pollard

Pollard finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds to earn a double-double. He made eight of his 16 shots and was 8 for 11 on the free throw line.

“My energy came from scoring too many easy buckets,” Pollard said. “Coach tells us every day, he can preach to us, and yell at us but he can’t make us do anything. It was just time for someone out there on the court to take the game and change it around, and I just did it the best I could.”

The Cougars will look to continue their winning ways as they face Murray State at 7 p.m. Wednesday inside Hofheinz Pavilion.

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