Men's Basketball Sports

Cougars see room for improvement after TCU win

J’Wan Roberts led the Cougars with 10 boards in a game in which they were offensively out-rebounded 30-9. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Houston’s defense against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament was nothing short of phenomenal.

The Horned Frogs didn’t score a point until nearly 10 minutes into the game and didn’t hit a three for the first 27 minutes of action. Houston as a team shot 53 total field goals; TCU missed 56 shots.

After the game, head coach Kelvin Sampson praised his team’s first-shot defense, and for good reason. In 65 possessions, TCU made the first shot attempt of its possession just 10 times, good for a percentage of 15.3. However, Sampson was admittedly upset that the Cougars were soundly out-rebounded, especially on the offensive glass. TCU grabbed a staggering 30 of their 56 misses, dwarfing UH’s nine total offensive rebounds.

TCU is a really good offensive rebounding team,” Sampson said. “But I was disappointed with our physicalness and blocking out.”

The Cougars have become famous for their rebounding ever since Sampson took the helm and still rank second in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage. However, recent season-ending injuries to key rotational pieces in sophomore Ramon Walker Jr. and freshman Joseph Tugler have severely hampered Houston’s impact on the glass.

Since Walker was lost for the season in a practice before UH’s road win over Baylor, the Cougars have been out-rebounded in all but one of their last six games, with the TCU game becoming the widest margin of that stretch at 55-39.

Big men J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis took on the rebounding load with a very solid 19 boards between the two, but according to Sampson, those two along with the team’s guards, who combined for two offensive rebounds, will need to step up in the near future.

“J’Wan’s had games where he had 20, and it’s probably gonna have to bump up. We’ll talk about it. Ja’Vier’s going to have to rebound more balls,” Sampson. “Jamal had games where he’s had 10 defensive rebounds. That’s got to be more of an emphasis.”

To be fair, TCU is lined with big, athletic players who aggressively crash the boards, so a rebounding edge against the smaller UH is expected. The Horned Frogs’s starting five features four players listed at 6-foot-7-inches or taller, compared to just three in the Cougars’ entire eight-man rotation. It’s a tough task for guards such as senior L.J. Cryer to box out such players, but one that he says the group still needs to improve on moving forward.

It’s just sticking your nose in there trying to get one,” Cryer said. “They had a lot of guys that crashed the glass. So a couple of times when they shot and they bounced to the point line, we weren’t on the perimeter because those guys were crashing and we had to block them out. We just have to do a better job of sticking with our man and keeping them off.”

A date with No. 25 Texas Tech on Friday will likely provide some relief on the boards — the Red Raiders are a much smaller team compared to TCU and land towards the bottom of the Big 12 in offensive rebounding — but players such as senior guard Mylik Wilson are adamant that UH must control the glass better in order to continue in the conference tournament and beyond.

We know what we’ve got to do. We know if we want to advance we’ve got to rebound,” Wilson said. “The guards have got to do a better job rebounding. Myself, personally, I’ve got to get at least 10 rebounds.”

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