Thursday night’s game between Houston and UConn was the epitome of sloppiness as both teams combined for 34 turnovers and committed 54 personal fouls in the game, but for the Cougars, the win is all that matters and the page has already been turned to the next contest.
“We win the game and we just move on,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Conference play, whether you win or lose you can’t dwell on it, you just got to get to the next one.”
The Cougars’ offense was out of rhythm the entire night as the team missed 19 shots in the first half (9-28) and only shot 8-19 in the second for a combined 36.2 percent, but the team stayed within striking distance and made the plays down the stretch to finish the game.
“Sometimes when you don’t have your best stuff, and you’re in a fight like that, you got to find a way to win,” Sampson said. “And that’s where your culture comes in, and the way you practice every day comes in.”
Thursday’s performance was not all lackluster, junior forward Brison Gresham had one of the plays of the game when with 30 seconds left to play, he blocked a potential go-ahead shot from UConn senior guard Christian Vital.
“Instincts,” Gresham simply said when describing the play.
For the head coach, Gresham’s performance was outstanding.
“I can’t tell you how proud I was of Brison Gresham,” Sampson said. “He was tremendous tonight in everything we asked him to do. His coverage calls, help-side rim-protecting, and he made his two free throws in the second half.”
The other play of the game came on the possession before Gresham’s block when redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills scored a tough step-back jumper off of one foot to put the Cougars ahead by two and ultimately win the game.
Mills was a spark plug for Houston the entire second-half as 18 of his 20 came in the period, and a lot of those points came in key situations where it seemed like UConn could run away and hide with the lead.
For the 6-3 guard, however, he stayed cool and collected during the high-intense pressure situation and a lot of it had to do because of the trust in his teammates.
“I wanted to make the shot, but I knew if I didn’t, we would get the rebound,” Mills said. “Fabian (White) was in the game and Nate (Hinton) was in the game with Brison. It wasn’t a lot of pressure on my side.”
As for Sampson, the win is a win and that is all that matters.
“You’re going to have games like these if you play 30-something games,” Sampson said. “We had a game like this early in the year against BYU and we found a way to lose it, this one today we found a way to win it.”