Northern Kentucky took Houston out of their game flow, and the Norse dictated much of the night. UH led most of the way but, partly thanks to injuries to Marcus Sasser (reaggravated groin), Jamal Shead (hyperextended knee), and J’Wan Roberts (slowed early by a knee to the groin), the Coogs played right into their hands, keeping the game within reach.
Give credit to coach Darin Horn, who had a great game plan. UH defended NKU’s actions well but could not take control of how the game was played. At first, UH looked tight, which should be expected, but then played frantic at times. To their credit, the Coogs held them to 9/39 shooting in the second half, as just one Northern Kentucky player made more than two shots. Houston won the game by 11, allowing a momentary sigh of relief for Kelvin Sampson.
Beyond the box score
The Norse took 69 shots, the most UH has allowed all year. They took six more shots than the previous high (63, Kent State). Remember the Golden Flashes.
The 69 FG attempts are the most against Houston in the last seven years in a regulation game (72, at LSU on 11/29/2016). Hofstra had 74 attempts last year, but seven were in OT.
UH’s 51 attempts were the second-lowest of the season, the previous low (50) coming against … Kent State.
So, Northern Kentucky took 18 more shots than Houston. That’s part of why they had so many offensive rebounds (18), but the offensive rebounds are part of why they had so many shots. And as Kelvin said in the postgame, “they were tougher than we were tonight,” Sampson said. “That’s not easy for me to say. Disappointed in that.”
How wild are the +18 in shots? This season, only three teams had taken more shots in a game than UH:
Kent State at Fertitta: 4 more attempts
Cincinnati at Fertitta: 8 more
Memphis at Fertitta: 1 more
All three were at Fertitta, and all were close games, but Kent State figured it out first. Since 2016, only a handful of teams have been +8 in FG attempts vs. a Kelvin Sampson team.
NKU’s 33 three-point attempts were the season’s second-most against UH (38, Oral Roberts). The Cougars attempted just 16 three-pointers, third lowest of the year. Saint Mary’s (11) and Alabama (13) were the only games they shot fewer.
The three steals were the second-fewest of the year (at UCF, 2).
UH’s 17 turnovers were the second-most of the year; only the 23 vs. Kent State were higher. So what about Kent State? NKU coach Darin Horn and Kent State coach Rob Senderoff are close friends, and Horn told me early in the week that he planned to discuss Kent State’s game plan from November. Kent State led almost half of that game before fading at the end.
Houston’s three bigs were 11/15 on the game for 29 points.
Until five intentional fouls in the last 90 seconds, NKU had only committed seven. That would have been the lowest against UH this year (9 at Cincinnati).