Shorthanded UH defeats South Carolina at home
When Houston battled South Carolina at Fertitta Center Saturday evening, it did so without a few of its biggest names in attendance.
Head coach Kelvin Sampson, as well as assistant coach Kellen Sampson, were isolated at their homes due to COVID-19 issues, resulting in assistant coach Quannas White serving as the acting head coach in the No. 10 Cougars’ 77-67 win over the Gamecocks.
The undefeated Cougars (4-0) were also without two of their most impactful players as sophomore guards Caleb Mills and Marcus Sasser were each out with ankle injuries.
The Cougars did not seem to be significantly undermanned early on when they scored a quick four points to begin the game. However, the tone of the matchup would soon change when South Carolina began to give the Cougars several different defensive looks.
South Carolina, who has yet to play a home game of their own this season, made themselves comfortable at Fertitta Center in the first half, building a five-point lead at around the eight and a half minute mark, at one point scoring eight straight points.
The story of the first half though, was the poor shooting performance by UH. The Cougars shot only 1 of 13 from beyond the arc, and 10 of 30 from the field overall in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Despite nine first-half turnovers, the Gamecocks led 35-31 at halftime behind just over 45 percent shooting on 3-pointers.
The teams traded 3-point baskets to start the second half, and both teams committed to heavy man-to-man defenses in an attempt to cool down hot shooting streaks by the other squad.
Freshman guard Tramon Mark tied the game at 40 with a shot from deep of his own, but UH still struggled to get stops on defense for much of the early parts of the second half.
Better rebounding by the Cougars, in part thanks to aggressive play down low from senior forward Justin Gorham and junior guard Quentin Grimes, resulted in several second-chance point opportunities and allowed UH to begin building a small lead down the stretch.
The scoring absence of Sasser and Mills was evident as UH, for much of the contest, played a close game versus a South Carolina program they defeated by 19 points last season.
Much of that absent scoring was picked up by senior guard DeJon Jarreau before he found himself in foul trouble halfway through the second period of play.
Although Mark struggled from shooting for much of the game, he still was able to finish with 18 points, second among all scorers. Grimes led all scorers with 23 points and was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line.
South Carolina turned the ball over 19 times to Houston’s nine and shot 17 of 29 from the free-throw line.
Houston was eventually able to pull away, turning a game that was a slugfest for much of the time into a double-digit victory.