Losing a star player is not an easy thing for a basketball program to overcome. But losing him in the middle of the season? That spells disaster.
But since Houston lost Caleb Mills around New Years Day, the Coogs have found a way to flourish. UH is 6-0 in the month of January with a scoring margin of 17.2 ppg. UH was 30th in the country in scoring margin when Mills left and are now 11th.
One of the biggest improvements for the Cougars has been ball movement. Mills’ style of play did not lend itself to moving the ball around the perimeter or finding the open man inside. Since his departure, UH’s assist numbers are up over two a game.
And three-point shooting has skyrocketed. While Sasser and Grimes can both create their own shot, more catch and shoot opportunities have helped Grimes improve his three-point shooting percentage by 9 points in the last six games (32% to 41.3%) while Sasser has improved 7 points (37% to 44%). As a team, the Coogs have improved their shooting percentage by 7.5% from beyond the arc, moving up 93 spots in the category since Mills’ last game.
Total shooting has improved as well: the Coogs are making over two shots more a game and shooting 12 points a game higher (.410 to .422 since).
Having five guys on the floor hungry for offensive rebounds has also improved this team. Caleb Mills was never interested in rebounding his own shot, pulling down just 14 offensive boards in 35 total games. Since he left, the Cougars are grabbing 1.5 offensive and 2.67 total rebounds more per game. UH has jumped to #1 in offensive rebounding and from 51st to 8th in total rebounds per game.
That means UH is making two more shots a game and grabbing another 1.5 offensive boards in the six games since the departure. That’s turning comfortable wins into blowouts.
And the Cougars are defending on the ball better. Teams are shooting 11 points worse than they were before the separation (.374 to .363 in the last 6 games). UH has jumped up from 19th nationally in field goal percentage defense to #2.
Better ball movement. Better three-point shooting. Better total shooting, offensive rebounding, total rebounding, scoring margin, and on-ball defense. But mostly, better chemistry. This Cougar team has come together to prove themselves and to get in a position to win the conference and potentially grab a one-seed.