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Sampson ‘a little bit surprised’ with Houston’s offensive performance so far

Head coach Kelvin Sampson said he was a "a little bit surprised by the Cougars' offensive stats so far this season, particularly Houston's 86 points per game average and nearly 50 percent shooting. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

Head coach Kelvin Sampson said he was a “a little bit surprised” by the Cougars’ offensive stats so far this season, particularly Houston’s 86 points per game average and nearly 50 percent shooting. | Kathryn Lenihan/The Cougar

The Cougars are 3-2 to start the season, with their two losses coming against solid opponents, and while it is still early and the team has yet to craft a consistent identity, one of their strengths has been on the offensive side of the ball.

Houston is averaging 86 points a game, which is No. 8 in the nation.

“You know, I am a little bit surprised in our offensive stats,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “I mean, we’re averaging 86 points a game. We’re shooting almost 50 percent from the floor, but I think that’s indicative of what these kids are good at: they can score. They’re not great shooters, but they can score.”

One of the biggest contributors to Houston’s success in putting up points has been freshman guard Marcus Sasser, who is averaging 10.2 points a game while shooting a phenomenal 50 percent from behind the three-point line, but his production is no surprise for Sampson.

“When we recruited him, we were looking at three kids,” Sampson said, “but the deciding factor why we went on Marcus versus the other guys was the three-point shooting.”

Despite the strong start on offense, Sampson wants the focus to be on the defense.

“If we’re going to take a step forward this year, at some point, you gotta draw the line in the sand and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to guard,’” Sampson said. “You know, that’s kind of been our focus these last five days trying to get our guys to know what to do and where to go. We have a plate of freshmen here.”

Sampson believes the biggest factor for the defensive struggles has been due to the inexperience of the team.

“That’s the biggest thing from a teacher standpoint,” Sampson said. “What you’re teaching students, if I’ve got somebody who has majored in English versus somebody who’s majored in math, the math majors will struggle in English a lot. Well, I’m teaching English, and I got a bunch of math students.”

Even though Sampson sees the team is not ready yet in the mental aspect of the game, talent-wise, he sees Houston right there with their toughest opponents so far.

“When you look at Oregon and Houston, there is not a lot of difference,” Sampson said. “They’re both good teams. But you can’t go two for 20 on threes and think you’ll beat a good team.”

The team’s youth has been exploited in its two losses, especially when it went to Oregon.

“We were up 22-14 and Fabian (White Jr.) missed a layup he normally makes, and they came down and hit a three,” Sampson said. “All of a sudden it’s 20-17. We come down and Justin (Gorham) had one of those passes where you just cross your eyes and go ‘What was that?’ They go down to score and it’s 22-19.

Now you got a packed house, it’s going nuts and that’s where experience, the intel experience (matters).”

Texas State will be another good early challenge and opportunity for Houston to get experience against veteran teams. 

The Bobcats are 6-2 early in their campaign and are led by senior guard Nijal Pearson.

“They just run it and run it and run it, and they don’t let you run yours,” Sampson said of Texas State. “So knowing that, it should grow your team. It’s about experience. You got to know what you’re doing.”

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