The #2 Houston Cougars overcame a poor shooting afternoon and a season-high 23 turnovers yet still managed to pull out a 49-44 win over Kent State. Marcus Sasser led all scorers with 19 points, while J’Wan Roberts had 11, 14 rebounds, and four big blocks.
Houston was sloppy out of the gate in both halves, playing unevenly and struggling with Kent State’s defense. Nevertheless, Kelvin Sampson was impressed with the play of his former assistant Rob Senderoff’s team.
“It’s the first time all year someone’s punched us in the mouth,” Kelvin Sampson said after the game. “I was just impressed with Kent State’s toughness. That’s going to be an NCAA Tournament team.”
Senderoff was an assistant under Sampson at Indiana.
“They looked more like a Cougar Basketball team than we did.”
Several players had been dealing with an illness this week, which Kelvin Sampson admitted after the game. Jamal Shead missed two practices with a high fever, and Ja’Vier Francis, Ramon Walker, and others missed time.
The three freshmen – Jarace Walker, Terrance Arceneaux, and Ja’Vier Francis – combined for 16 boards but just four points. Sampson had spoken at length this week about the inconsistency of freshmen.
The two teams combined made just 31 of 113 shots (27.4%). Outside of layups, they shot 21.7% (18/83). Houston had 16 offensive rebounds and 56 overall, a record for games in Fertitta Center. It was UH’s highest rebounding game since November 2014.
With the win, the Cougars will likely ascend to #1 in the country on Monday. It would be the first time that’s happened in the AP Poll since March 15, 1983.