Refusing to lose: Houston Cougars basketball overcomes pesky Cincinnati team with perfect execution

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13745380p) Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) shoots as Cincinnati guard Jeremiah Davenport (24) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston Cincinnati Basketball, Houston, United States – 28 Jan 2023

Refusing to lose: Houston Cougars basketball overcomes pesky Cincinnati team with perfect execution

The Houston Cougars basketball team refused to let the Cincinnati Bearcats leave the Fertitta Center with a win on Saturday afternoon.

No. 3 Houston was down by as many as 13 points and trailed by double-digits with less than 12 minutes left in the game, but it clawed its way back to emerge with the 75-69 win over Cincinnati.

“I think it showed that we have a lot of fight in us at the right moments,” Houston junior guard Jamal Shead said after the game. “We refused to lose, and we stayed together. We got down a couple of times. [Cincinnati] hit daggering shots, but you know, we stayed together and just kept battling through it.”

Shead was a key player in Houston’s comeback win. Not only did he hit the go-ahead shot, a step-back jumper with only 47 seconds left in the game and the shot clock winding down, but he also nailed two clutch free throws that helped ice the game.

Freshman forward Jarace Walker also balled out against the Bearcats. He set a new career-high with 25 points, secured seven rebounds, and did a little bit of everything for Houston, including making plays on the defensive side of the ball.

“Jamal’s will to win equals his refusal to lose,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Jarace is just getting more comfortable and more confident, and you can see it in things we do in practice.”

Despite UH’s top scorer and leader, senior guard Marcus Sasser being held to just nine points by the Bearcats, the Cougars (20-2, 8-1 American Athletic) were able to use him as a decoy, Sampson said.

Cincinnati’s game plan to key in on Sasser worked really well, Sampson added. So instead, UH put him on the same side as Walker so that the Bearcats could not double-team the forward when he attacked. Shead’s ability to get into the paint and create shots also helped the Cougars punish the Bearcats, the head coach stated.

“We executed at a really, really high-level tonight,” Sampson said. “Whatever was called. We executed. The ball moved. I thought we got a little sticky the first half. We were missing some clean looks, and they were making some hard shots. Much props to Cincinnati tonight.”

Before making a big run in the second half, Houston struggled to get over the hump against Cincinnati for much of the contest. The Bearcats led for 31:21 of game time. They came in ready and had a great game plan, Sampson said.

Cincinnati’s best player on Saturday was redshirt senior guard Landers Nolley II, who hurt UH by hitting multiple tough shots. He finished with 24 points and six rebounds. He is playing as well as anyone in the conference right now, Sampson stated.

What changed in favor of UH was that it started guarding the pick-and-roll better in the second half. Houston stopped committing as hard to the roller, and it was playing its meetings at the point of attack much better, Sampson said.

Houston’s two freshmen guards, Terrance Arceneaux and Emanuel Sharp played crucial roles in the first half to keep the Cougars within striking distance.

With UH looking to find a spark, Sampson went to a four-guard lineup that featured the two youngsters, Sasser and Shead, and then cycled out forward J’Wan Roberts, big man Reggie Chaney and Walker with them.

The Cougars, who trailed 32-19 before the guard lineup was inserted into the game, went on a run to end the half that got them as close as four points in the first half.

“They held the fort down until we could get our defense and our rebounding together,” Sampson said. “Terrance made some good plays. Emanuel made some good plays.”

Despite trailing for much of the game, Houston never panicked and managed to keep its poise, Shead said. It is one of Walker’s favorite things about the Cougars.

“That’s what I love about our team. No matter what happens, we are always going to stay together,” Walker said.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

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