Cougars climb to their highest ranking in 36 years
The University of Houston men's basketball team was without both Kelvin Sampson and Assistant Coach Kellen Sampson when they played South Carolina last Saturday. Both of the coaches were impacted by COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, thus they had to miss their first game of the season.
Cougars' assistant coach Quannas White was given the opportunity to take up the reins as head coach during the game, and the Cougars got off to a shaky start. However, timely points and great defensive stops secured a Houston victory and prevented their first loss of the season.
The first half was atrocious for the Cougars and seemingly none of their shots were going in. Their shooting percentage was 33% and were 1 of 13 on 3-pointers. At one point, the Cougars went 8½ minutes without a field goal.
South Carolina out played the Cougars and took a 35-31 lead at halftime. This was short-lived, for Houston took over the game with their trilogy of success; tough defense, good rebounding and taking care of the ball in the second half.
Houston had a 14-2 run early in the second half and recaptured the lead 48-42 with 14 minutes remaining. South Carolina kept it close and cut the lead back to a one point game 50-49. However, Houston used a 12-3 run to take a 10-point lead and never looked back.
Junior guard Quentin Grimes truly came alive in the scored half where he scored 19 of his 23 points and went 12-13 from the free throw line.
Injuries did play a part in this game, for Houston was without both Caleb Mills and their leading scorer Marcus Sasser on Saturday. Both players were inactive for the game and both were wearing walking boots on the bench.
This is the second game Mills has missed including Houston's first game of the season against Lamar on Nov. 25 with an injury.
The Cougars reached a new peak for this season as they climbed 3 spots to No. 7 in the country, according to the Associated Press Top 25.
This is the program's highest ranking in 36 years. The last time the Cougars were ranked this high was during the 1983-84 season. They finished 5th in the country that year.
Their next game is on Wednesday against Sam Houston State and the Cougars will once again be with out both Sampson coaches as they continue their continued COVID-19 contact tracing.