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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Men's Basketball

No. 21 Houston to take on UConn for critical road finale


Redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills attempting a contested layup over a UConn defender back on Jan. 23 at the Fertitta Center. Mills led the Cougars with 20 points in the win. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

Houston redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills attempting a contested layup over a UConn defender back on Jan. 23 at Fertitta Center. Mills led the Cougars with 20 points in the win. | Mikol Kindle Jr./The Cougar

The No. 21 Cougars will travel to Connecticut for their final road game of the regular season against the UConn Huskies on Thursday evening at Harry A. Gampel Pavillion.

That game will also be the final time UConn will host Houston as a member of the American Athletic Conference as the Huskies will join the Big East Conference on July 1.

“They are playing absolutely their best basketball of the season right now,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson during his weekly radio show on Monday evening. “This will be the hardest road game we’ve probably had all year long.”

A look at the Huskies

UConn enters the contest winners of three-straight games.

Sampson on Monday evening pointed out the extra energy the Huskies will likely have as it will be the final home game for senior guard Christian Vital.

On the season, Vital leads the Huskies in three different categories with 15.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per contest.

The Huskies will be without freshman forward Akok Akok, who led the team with 2.6 blocks per game, as he suffered a torn Achilles injury on Feb. 16 against the Tigers.

The previous matchup

The game in Houston came down to the wire as the Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds on a jumper from senior guard Temi Aiyegbusi, but he missed, and redshirt freshman guard Caleb Mills sealed the win by hitting two free throws that put the contest out of reach.

Vital hurt the Cougars back in the Jan. 23 meeting with 14 points, three assists, four rebounds and two steals before fouling out of the contest.

Despite it not being the cleanest game, the victory was important for Houston and has made a difference in the conference standings.

Implications

The matchup against UConn will be a critical one for Houston, who will look to remain in the No. 1 spot it shares with Tulsa as both teams are 12-4 entering Wednesday.

“We got a big game coming up Thursday and I think we are more focused on the process,” said Sampson after Sunday’s win against Cincinnati. “We’ve won nothing … If you start getting ahead of yourself, you’re losing sight of why we start in June and (why) our kids work so hard.”

The game will be shown on the CBS Sports Network at 6 p.m. CST and will also be able to be heard on KPRC 950 AM.

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