‘We aren’t going anywhere:’ Sampson confident UH will be back
SAN ANTONIO — All year, Kelvin Sampson talked about how this Houston team was not a great shooting team but was able to get by due to dominance on the offensive glass and second-chance points. On Saturday night, the Cougars’ poor shooting finally caught up with them.
29.8 percent from the field. 1 for 20 from 3-point range. That recipe doesn’t lead to a lot of wins and it didn’t on Saturday night in the South Regional final against Villanova.
“We just were missing wide-open shots really,” said UH forward Fabian White Jr.. “Missing layups, missing free throws. It’s a struggle we’ve been having all year. It just bit us at the end.”
Surprisingly, Villanova shot even worse from the field — going 28.8 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from deep. Yet the Wildcats came out on top.
“If you had told me before the game that we were going to hold (Villanova) to 28 percent from the field, they’re going to shoot 23 percent from the 3-point line and we lose, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Sampson said.
The Cougars’ defense kept them in a game they shouldn’t have been in at all given how poorly they shot the ball, providing them a chance to win all the way to the game’s final moments.
In the huddle after UH had cut the lead to four, Sampson told his team that someone would hit a big shot — that never happened.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Sampson said. “They didn’t go in. That happens.”
Once the clock hit triple zeros, the realization hit that the season had come to an end and disappointment filled the faces of the UH players and coaches.
Many tears were shed in the locker room, but this showed Sampson how much his team truly cared.
“Teams that cry, care,” Sampson said. “There were a lot of tears in that locker room (from) coaches and players.”
UH not going anywhere
UH wasn’t even supposed to be in a position to be so close to a second consecutive Final Four appearance with the way the injury bug bit the team. While the loss stings at the moment, Sampson expressed how proud he is of all his team accomplished and knows that his players will feel the same sense of pride when they look back on the 2021-22 season years down the road.
“This team won a conference championship, a tournament championship and went to the Elite Eight,” Sampson said. “It sounds good right now but because we’re hurting it’s hard to celebrate that. But time will pass and these kids will look back (on this moment with pride).”
While Sampson and his staff will have to reload again with Fabian White, Kyler Edwards, Josh Carlton and Taze Moore all departing, the UH culture will remain.
Sampson is confident that the Cougars will be in a similar position, with a chance to make the Final Four, come this time next year.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” Sampson said. “We’ll be back.”