No. 25 Cougars, Bearcats meet in heavyweight showdown
No. 25 Houston and Cincinnati both enter Sunday’s crucial matchup at the Fertitta Center with an 11-4 conference record and will be well-rested after being idle for the entire week.
The Cougars will look to make up for a 64-62 loss back on Feb. 1 in Cincinnati. The winner of Sunday’s game will have the upper edge in finishing on top of the American Athletic Conference.
The end of the regular season is just around the corner and Sunday’s game will be a huge momentum builder for the winner, but the Cougars are not approaching the contest any differently.
“They’ve all been big for a while now,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said after Thursday evening’s practice. “We’ve played 15 conference games and these kids have put themselves in a position to win each one.”
The Bearcats enter the game off a 67-64 win over the Shockers last Sunday. That contest snapped four consecutive overtime games for Cincinnati.
The Cougars enter the game off a 60-59 loss they suffered at the hands of the Tigers on Feb. 22 in Memphis.
Back on Feb.1, the contest came down to the final shot, in which the Cougars were unable to convert on a potential tying jumper. The Cougars, however, controlled much of the first half, leading by 10 at halftime before the Bearcats rallied.
The biggest lesson for Houston from that meeting was that Cincinnati’s personality is almost a mirror image of the Cougars. The Bearcats are battle-tested as seen with all their overtime battles and will keep battling until the final buzzer sounds.
“They are the closest team to us culture-wise,” redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills said on Thursday. “We (both) play hard, defend and rebound… They play with a chip on their shoulder just like we do.”
For sophomore guard Nate Hinton, Sunday’s game will be a 40-minute slugfest.
“(Cincinnati is) always competitive, always a dog fight,” he said.
Back in February, the Bearcats were led by senior guard Jarron Cumberland, who had 17 points, seven assists and added in two blocked shots. Senior forward Tre Scott also had 16 points and finished the game with 11 rebounds.
What to watch for on Sunday
The Cougars will look to correct the simple errors that according to them are the main reason they have lost the close games on the road.
When it comes to the gameplan, there is nothing too complicated that has to be done in order for Houston to succeed.
“Offensively, we got to move,” said junior forward Fabian White Jr. “We got to cut instead of standing around so much. Defensively we just got to trust the system.”
Sophomore guard Quentin Grimes has been questionable for the game all week long and will likely be a game-time decision.
Sunday’s game will tip-off at 12 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN and can be heard on KPRC 950 AM.