Defense, stellar play by Jarace Walker power Houston Cougars basketball to big win over SMU

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13639034t) Kent State guard Sincere Carry (3) is blocked by Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Kent State Basketball, Houston, United States – 26 Nov 2022

Defense, stellar play by Jarace Walker power Houston Cougars basketball to big win over SMU

The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team, led by freshman forward Jarace Walker, completely overpowered the Southern Methodist University Mustangs on Thursday evening inside Fertitta Center.

After a turnaround jumper by graduate student Efe Odigie gave SMU a 2-0 lead to open the game, Houston (15-1, 3-0 American Athletic) responded with 24 straight unanswered points. The run left the Mustangs completely out of horsepower and essentially put the game out of reach by the 12-minute mark in the first half. Houston defeated SMU 87-53.

“I know it was high level there for a while, but you know it is hard for me to evaluate that right after the game because I’m so focused on the next defensive possession,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters after the game. “But we’ve been working hard with this group.”

What Sampson liked the most about Houston’s victory over SMU was that its defense drove it. Sampson stated that the Cougars got their energy from that side of the ball.

“That started with Jamal [Shead], Marcus [Sasser], and Tramon [Mark], those three guys at the point of attack,” Sampson said. “You know, the actions that SMU likes to run, you know, we just did a great job guarding it. You know they’ve been scoring 80-something points on people [entering the game].”

When Houston is not giving up second and third shots, meaning they are finishing defensive possessions with rebounds, the Cougars can get out in transition, Sampson said. UH really excels when their guards rebound, the head coach added. Sasser is always hunting down 3-pointers in transition.

One young player that stood out in Houston’s win against SMU was Walker, who is still learning where his shots can come from, Sampson said.

In Thursday’s rout, Walker put up 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and secured 10 rebounds. Most importantly for Sampson, he got four offensive rebounds, which was a goal the team had set for him entering the game.

Sampson has been getting on Walker during practices and even during other games, the forward said postgame. The focus for the Pennsylvania native has been on asserting himself and making the right decisions, which doesn’t always mean putting the ball through the basket, he said.

“Being aggressive doesn’t mean always taking the shot,” Walker added. “It’s like, maybe getting downhill, making a play for a teammate or myself, so I feel like I did that well tonight.”

When it comes to freshmen, there are going to be a lot of peaks and valleys. Earlier in the season, Sampson described it as a game of tic-tac-toe. One night could be an O for a freshman; the next night, it will be an X. The key is for the younglings to eventually start stringing together a series of O’s or X’s.

This year’s iteration of the Cougars has three freshmen on the roster. Walker, like both guards Terrance Arceneaux and Emanuel Sharp, has had to navigate the choppy waters. The key for him has been not to focus too much on one performance.

​​“It really is not dwelling on the past,” Walker said. “Once the game is over, there is nothing you can really do about it. You can just prepare and get yourself and your mind ready for the next one.

“I’m human. I know I am going to have bad games. If I string them along, that doesn’t really matter to me. I just know there is always the next game, so I just try and prepare myself for that one.”

When Walker does click offensively, it adds an extra layer to the Houston Cougars basketball team that makes it just that much harder to guard them, said Sasser, who finished with 14 points, seven assists, and only one turnover in the win.

“I feel like it takes us to another level, you know, offensively,” Sasser said. “When [Walker] and J’Wan [Roberts] are doing good, doing what they do, it just makes the game easier really, because they both love to pass first.

“But, you know, when they are being aggressive and scoring the ball, it just makes the defense key in on them a little bit more, so it just gives us more shots and it just opens up our offense, really.”

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *