Mandatory Credit: Photo by Andy Nelson/AP/Shutterstock (13631949o) Houston guard Marcus Sasser (0) shoots a three pointer as Houston guard Terrance Arceneaux (23) watches from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Eugene, Ore Houston Oregon Basketball, Eugene, United States – 20 Nov 2022
EUGENE, ORE. — The third-ranked Houston Cougars men’s basketball team passed its first road test of the season on Sunday night against Oregon.
Houston battled through the adversity of a hostile crowd, foul trouble, an opponent that had the size advantage, and a pesky Ducks team that refused to go out quietly, but in the end, it was the Cougars that came out of the woods with a victory.
“We didn’t play great, but it’s not time to play great,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game. “It’s November. November is about winning and learning, and that’s what we did today.”
The story of the night was Houston’s guards. They flourished throughout the outing against Oregon. Despite lead guard Marcus Sasser missing most of the first half due to foul trouble, it was the strong play of freshman guard Terrance Arceneaux and junior guard Jamal Shead that helped keep UH ahead of Oregon for the remainder of the period.
By the time the Cougars had reached the halftime break, Sampson was excited for his team because his lead guard had played only eight minutes, and Houston still led by seven, he said.
“You’re going to have nights like that. Who are you going to go to?” Sampson told Gallery Sports. “Terrance is getting better and better at practice. Like most of our new guys, when they learn to practice, then they’ve earned the right to play well in games.”
Arceneaux put together the best performance of his young, five-game collegiate career. He finished with 15 points, five rebounds, and three steals. When the Beaumont native first entered the contest, his mindset was to just come in and change the game, he said.
“Not really on the offensive end, but on the defensive end mainly,” Arceneaux said. “I know we were losing on the rebound totals, so my main focus coming in was just rebounding, and when I’m open, just catch and shoot it.”
The 6-foot-5-inch guard did exactly what he was aiming to do and more. Arceneaux hit his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and then he followed it up with a steal and forced Oregon center Nate Bittle to foul him.
Arceneaux then scored on a strong slam dunk off an inbounds play by the Cougars, and then he capped off his own personal 8-0 run with another 3-point shot that broke a 15-15 tie between the two teams. Oregon never tied or led in the game again.
In the second half, Sasser returned to the floor for the Cougars, and he immediately went to work against the Ducks as Houston tried to deliver a knockout punch to Oregon. The feisty Ducks team made a few runs and whittled Houston’s lead down to as little as two and three points but could never get over the hump.
“It just shows as a team that we really prepare; coach really prepared us,” Arceneaux told Gallery Sports. “Quannas White, the guard coach, he really prepared us. He prepares us for moments like this, so I wasn’t really nervous coming into the game.”
When Oregon cut Houston’s lead to 38-35 in the early-to-middle part of the second half, Houston went on a 20-7 run that gave it a 16-point lead. 3-pointers and baskets from Sasser and Arceneaux, as well as from freshman forward Jarace Walker, Shead, and guard Tramon Mark, were the fuel behind Houston’s run.
Once again, however, Oregon found a run of its own to cut Houston’s lead to just six with roughly two minutes left in the game. This time, it was Sasser that delivered the coup de grâce with a 3-pointer that put Houston up 63-54 with 52 seconds left.
The Cougars beat the Ducks 66-56. Houston’s game against Oregon showcased the team’s depth and why it is one of the best teams in the entire country.
“Coach says it a lot,” Shead told Gallery Sports. “We have depth; we’re gonna use it. Terrance stepped up to the plate tonight. You never know who it could be. We’ve had a lot of guys have 20 this, 20 that, 20 that. It just depends on whose night it is.”