UH CRACKS THE TOP 10

Here's the key that unlocked a 3-0 start for the Coogs

UH is off to a great start! Photo courtesy of UH athletics.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the University of Houston Men's Basketball program finally returned to the hardwood on Wednesday, November 25th. The Cougars started this season as the 17th ranked team in the country and looked to carry over their winning ways from last year's COVID-19 shortened season.

The Cougars ignited their season with a home victory against Lamar University on Wednesday. This was also the Cougars' first game since securing a victory over Memphis at the Fertitta Center on March 8 to clinch the American Athletic Conference regular-season title. Sophomore Marcus Sasser scored 25 points, and freshman forward Tramon Mark added 22 points and eight rebounds to push the Cougars to a blowout victory of 89-45. Although this game wasn't close, it showcased Houston's three best attributes: defense, rebounding and ball security. This game turned out to be a good tune-up in preparation for the Cougars' next two opponents, and showed just how dominant this team could be on the defensive end.

Their next game proved to be a little more challenging against the Boise State Broncos. The Cougars led 11-9 midway through the first half before going on a 21-5 run resulting in a 34-19 lead at halftime. This domination was a result of the Cougars outstanding defense. One example was DeJon Jarreau, a 6-5 senior guard who shut down last year's Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Derrick Alston, who was held scoreless the entire game. Coach Kelvin Sampson said Jarreau's defense set the tone for the Cougars.

"He wanted that assignment," Sampson said. "He embraced that challenge. You could tell he was ready to go. DeJon is a competitor and a tough kid."

It wasn't an entire defensive showcase, for Quinton Grimes (last years second leading scorer for the Cougars) dropped a game high 25 points for Houston.

Boise State did make things interesting towards the end. The Broncos went on an 18-5 run to cut a 20- point deficit to seven points with 2:26 left to go in the second half. However, Houston made nine straight free throws (15-of-17 for the game) down the stretch to secure a 68-58 victory.

The Cougars headed up to Fort Worth to play their most anticipated matchup so far against the 14th ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders.

This was the first meeting between the two schools in six years, and is the third straight neutral-site meeting between the former Southwest Conference opponents. There was a red and black heavy presence of a pandemic-limited crowd at Dickies Arena, which provided a good ambience for a pseudo Texas Tech home game. It didn't seem to affect the Cougars as they got off to a fast start and took a big lead.

Houston went on a 21-4 run in the first half and Texas Tech went more than six minutes without a single field goal during that stretch. The Cougars' stifling defense was once again the best part of their game (sensing a trend?). Houston limited the Red Raiders' to 33.3 percent shooting and forced 12 turnovers in the first half. Sasser, for the second time in three games, was the leading scorer for the Cougars. He hit a big time 3 that gave Houston a 20 point lead with 12:27 left in the game.

Texas Tech wouldn't go away quietly though. They went on an 11-0 run in the second half and brought the Red Raiders back to within 55-48. Their comeback was short-lived, for Tech never got closer than seven points and couldn't take advantage of some Cougar offensive mishaps. Houston's offensive woes continued throughout the second half, but they established such a commanding lead early on, Texas Tech didn't have enough time to overcome this deficit.

It is worth mentioning that the last 12 1/2 minutes of the game was atrocious for the Cougars' offense. They only went 1-12 from the field, but 11 of 14 from the free throw line to keep their lead over the final 6:43 of the game.

The final score was 64-53 and the Cougars are 3-0 to start the season. After this victory, the Cougars are now ranked number 10 in the latest AP College basketball poll.

Key to all 3 victories

One Thing To Note: In all three games this season, Houston held their opponents scoring to under 20 points in the first half. Lamar, Boise State, and Texas Tech have all combined to shot 27.4 percent and committed 31 turnovers.
Offense wins games, and defense wins championships. If that motto is true, the Cougars have a bright future ahead of them this season.

The Cougars have a few days off before their next game at home against South Carolina on Saturday, December 5th.

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