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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Men's Basketball

Takeaways from the Cougars’ trip to Italy

Along with the four games it played throughout the trip, Houston visited many famous landmarks across Italy. | Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

Along with the four games it played throughout the trip, Houston visited many famous landmarks across Italy. | Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

The Cougars prepared for the upcoming season with a weeklong trip to Italy where they impressed with four wins in just seven days.

Houston won three of their four games by double digits, with the closest competition being a 95-88 win over BC Silute of Lithuania.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson’s squad also defeated Lithuania’s LCC International University 75-32, as well as Dream Italy 91-60 and the Roseto Sharks 68-32, also from Italy.

One of the brightest parts of the Cougars’ four-game stretch was sophomore guard Quentin Grimes, who will likely sit out this season after transferring from Kansas due to NCAA transfer rules.

Grimes was the leading scorer in two of the games, averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists and 6 rebounds per game.

In terms of immediate productivity and impact, freshman guard Marcus Sasser impressed with his ability to score.

The Red Oak native averaged 9 points per game, including a 19-point showing, a game-high, in his UH debut against the Sharks,

The game against the Sharks was called off early due to issues with players slipping.

Over the course of the four games, Sasser drained 41.6 percent of his 3-point attempts and showcased his ability to control the game with five assists and just two turnovers. Sasser could become a crucial backup guard.

Junior DeJon Jarreau is expected to take the reigns as a starting guard. Jarreau, 2018-19’s AAC Sixth Man of the Year, continued his impressive form as he averaged 13 points in three games, as he missed the second match with an illness.

Jarreau’s 22 points against Dream Italy were a game high and tied for the most by a Cougar in any of the four games with Grimes.

The New Orleanian also recorded 2.3 steals and 4.6 assists a game, but his 3.6 turnovers will warrant improvement come November.

Fabian White Jr., a junior forward, returns to the Cougars as a predicted staple of Sampson’s starting lineup, and, like Jarreau, has a high ceiling.

While in Italy, White Jr. averaged 8.8 points on 57.1 percent shooting along with 5.5 rebounds. He averaged 18.3 minutes per game last season, including 21 starts. With former forward Breaon Brady graduated, White Jr. will likely be seeing even more minutes.

A signature of Houston’s play last season was suffocating defense. UH ranked No. 11 in defensive efficiency and No. 1 in defensive effective field goal percentage.

This commanding ability was apparent in Italy, as Houston held its opponents to just 34.9 percent shooting from the field. UH averaged 5 blocks and 10.5 steals a game.

Despite the loss of several key players from last season’s monumental success, Houston is backed with another set of skilled and experienced players set to lead.

With the Cougars’ successful run in Italy, confidence and capability will be a core part of the 2019-20 season.

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