Inside the Houston Cougars men’s basketball not-so-secret scrimmage against Duke

Houston Cougars men’s basketball guard Marcus Sasser takes a shot during the team’s first practice of the season in September. (Courtesy Sean Thomas)

Inside the Houston Cougars men’s basketball not-so-secret scrimmage against Duke

It was homecoming week for the Houston Cougars football team on Saturday. While UH was putting a hurting on the visiting South Florida Bulls at TDECU Stadium, the Houston Cougars men’s basketball team was about a quarter-mile away at Fertitta Center hosting the Duke Blue Devils.

The not-so-secret scrimmage, as many across college basketball call them, began at the same time as the football game. The Blue Devils were not exactly sneaked onto campus. They were brought in through the back entrance of the Fertitta Center, as is custom for opposing teams on a regular game day.

However, security was hired to monitor each entrance inside the arena to ensure no unwarranted spectator caught a glimpse, according to one source with knowledge of the scrimmage.

No. 3 Houston and No. 7 Duke, two programs in the top seven in national polls, met to make each other better as the regular season approaches.

According to multiple sources, it was Houston that “defeated” Duke 61-50 in the scrimmage. Both teams played one 20-minute period simulating a first half, held a “halftime” break, and then faced off in only a 12-minute period in the “second half.”

The Cougars led by as many as 15 in the scrimmage. Duke was without freshman center Dereck Lively II and freshman guard Dariq Whitehead, both of whom did not play, according to one of the sources.

For Houston, guard Marcus Sasser was the leading scorer. He finished with 17 points against the Blue Devils. Freshman forward Jarace Walker had seven points and four rebounds. The player for UH, outside of Sasser that had a strong performance was forward J’Wan Roberts, who had eight points and seven rebounds in the 32 minutes.

Houston guard Tramon Mark had good flashes and excelled on the glass with five defensive rebounds. Mark also had nine points. UH, guard Jamal Shead had his struggles offensively, in particular, committing five turnovers against Duke and only four assists. However, he played strong defense against the Blue Devils, multiple sources said.

According to one source, Houston guard Emanuel Sharp did not play in the scrimmage due to an injury to his hand that is not considered serious. The Cougars fouled Duke 18 times in the 32 minutes, which led to 25 free throws by the Blue Devils. Duke committed 15 fouls in the same time period. Houston only shot 17 free throws.

For the Blue Devils, center Ryan Young led in scoring with 14 points. Freshman forward Mark Mitchell had 12 points. Jeremy Roach had 10 points on three-of-13 shooting and was primarily defended by Shead, sources said.

Both Houston and Duke also put their teams in situational scenarios, meaning each team practiced late-game situations such as going 2-for-1, having players shoot free throws with 53 seconds on the clock, and other conditions. Both teams also held another 12-minute period for freshmen and players not at the top of the rotation; sources told Gallery Sports.

Saturday’s scrimmage marked the final dress rehearsal before Nov. 7, when No. 3 Houston opens its season against Northern Colorado at Fertitta Center.

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