No. 1 Houston Cougars translated lessons from offensive-centered practices in rout of Norfolk State

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13642829g) Norfolk State guard Cahiem Brown (31) is defended by Houston guard Marcus Sasser during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Norfolk St Basketball, Houston, United States – 29 Nov 2022

No. 1 Houston Cougars translated lessons from offensive-centered practices in rout of Norfolk State

The No. 1 Houston Cougars men’s basketball team struggled mightily on offense in last Saturday’s game against Kent State.

UH shot 32% from the field, turned the ball over 23 times, and scored only 49 points as it grinded out a win. Houston was stagnant, and the ball wasn’t moving, head coach Kelvin Sampson said.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, and the Cougars (7-0) could not miss. Led by its trio of guards, Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, and Tramon Mark, Houston blasted past Norfolk State with an explosive offensive performance, 100-52.

“We worked on our offense a lot the last two practices,” Houston Cougars guard Marcus Sasser said after the game. “Just being on the right spots, really, and I think Jamal, Tramon, J’Wan [Roberts], and Jarace [Walker] did a good job not trying to force anything. Make singles, knocking down the open shots.”

Against Kent State, the Cougars were too iso heavy, the head coach stated.

“That’s not who we are. We are better than that,” Sampson said.

Houston’s defense is always better than its offense early in the season. It always has been, Sampson said. But, he never worries about the team’s offense because he knows they will pick it up once they start working on things.

“Like tonight, as soon as they popped in that zone, we were crisp,” Sampson said. “We knew exactly where that ball was going; the ball moved. We got inside out; the ball got reversed. We made extra passes. Well, we practiced that all week. Man-to-man, every time the ball moved, somebody else moved. That’s why we had so many assists tonight.”

The past two practices were likely the first time all season Houston dedicated entire practices to offense, Sampson added. The ability to practice the past two days was also a welcomed sight for Houston.

After returning from its trip to Oregon early Monday morning on Nov. 21, the Cougars were hit by an illness bug that spread throughout the team, Sampson said again after the team’s game against Norfolk State.

It did not allow the Cougars to practice as they would have liked throughout Thanksgiving week, Sampson stated. Guard Ramon Walker has still not fully recovered from his illness. He did not dress for Tuesday’s game, and the head coach told him to stay away from the team until he felt 100%, he added.

Despite the week of illness and a tough challenge against Kent State, Houston was able to shake it all off with an emphatic win over Norfolk State.

The Cougars not only shot 57.6% from the field but also hit 17 3-pointers on Tuesday, a new Fertitta Center record for most 3-point field goals made by Houston. The team also had 26 assists on 38 of its made baskets.

Sasser led all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, Shead had a 12-point, 11-assist double-double, and Mark had 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

Just seeing the ball go in was good for Houston, Sampson said, especially for Sasser, who has been mainly taking good shots leading up to Tuesday’s game, but against Norfolk State, his efficiency went way up, the head coach added.

The guard hopes it is something he can bottle up and carry going forward.

“I feel like I’ve been taking a lot of good shots,” Sasser said. “But you know, just not seeing them fall yet … [but] it was good for me to see shots falling and to have momentum going into the next game.”

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