Men's Basketball Sports

UH basketball: Previewing the top-10 showdown against Alabama

Junior point guard Jamal Shead leads UH with 56 assists through nine games this season. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Junior point guard Jamal Shead leads UH with 56 assists through nine games this season. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

History will be made on Saturday at 2 p.m. as top-ranked UH hosts its first top-10 matchup against No. 8 Alabama in a much-anticipated rematch from a year ago when the Crimson Tide outlasted the Cougars on a controversial non-goaltending call as time expired.

This heavyweight battle will be a matchup of two strengths as the Crimson Tide brings their 83.8 points per game to Fertitta Center to face a Cougars team that has held opponents to a nation-best 47.3 points per game.

“I feel like it’s a good opportunity for us and our team to come out and see what we’re really made of,” said UH guard Marcus Sasser.

Here are three things to know ahead of Saturday’s top-10 showdown:

Alabama’s season so far

Alabama is no stranger to facing No. 1, having already knocked off North Carolina, who was the country’s top-ranked team at the time, 103-101 in a four-overtime thriller at the Phil Knight Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend.

Forward Brandon Miller leads the Crimson Tide in scoring (19.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg). Through eight games, the 6-foot-9-inch freshman has shot 46.6 percent from 3-point range, averaging just over seven attempts per game.

 “You can do a teaching video with (Miller’s) release,” Sampson said.  “He’s got a beautiful release, beautiful shot and he makes them.”

Ohio transfer Mark Sears has also shot at a high clip from deep for the Crimson Tide, connecting on 44 percent of his 3’s this season. The 6-foot-1-inch guard is second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.9 points per game.

Senior guard Jahvon Quinerly, who scored 17 points and dished out eight assists against the Cougars, highlights a deep Alabama bench 

“They have no letup off their bench because of their talent level,” Sampson said.

Alabama sits at 7-1 on the year with its lone loss coming at the hands of UConn, currently ranked No. 5 AP poll.

Sasser’s status

Preseason AP All-American guard Marcus Sasser has taken a beating in the Cougars’ last two games, suffering a subluxation of his left shoulder in the win over St. Mary’s and a laceration above his left eye in Tuesday’s victory over North Florida.

Despite being banged up, Sasser plans on taking the court for the Cougars against the Crimson Tide.

I’m definitely playing,” Sasser said following Thursday’s practice.

Sasser will wear protective glasses, which he practiced in on Thursday, for Saturday’s game.

Electric environment

While Fertitta Center has played host to some big-name opponents like LSU, Oregon and Virginia, Saturday’s atmosphere is expected to be in a category of its own.

“I think this is going to be the biggest (crowd) yet,” Sasser said. “First (time) two top-10 teams (have played) in Fertitta Center so I feel like this (atmosphere) will be my favorite one.”

UH point guard Jamal Shead expects he won’t be able to hear much come Saturday afternoon, expecting the sold-out Fertitta Center crowd striped in red and white to be deafening.

“It’s electric,” Shead said when asked about the Cougars’ upcoming showdown with the Crimson Tide. “It’s good for our fans and it’s good for the whole city of Houston. It should be fun.”

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