Houston gets a challenge from Utah but pulls away in the end

Houston Men’s Hoops beat Utah 76-66 in a fun game Friday afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina. Challenged for the first time this season, UH stood tall and took a decisive win. The Cougars are #1 in the KenPom Ratings, a spot they are familiar with.

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Utah went up 12-4 early before UH muscled their way back, ending the half on a 35-18 run. The Coogs built the lead to 14 about 26 minutes into the game and seemed to be cruising.

But Utah punched back due to the three-point shooting of Gabe Madsen. He hit seven threes in the game, the third-most in Utah history. Utah was the first opponent this season to make Houston work for it in the second half.

When the Utes tied the game at 56, L.J. Cryer took control. He hit two clutch three-pointers in a three-minute stretch and had a steal and an assist to end the Utah run. To that point, Cryer had struggled shooting it (3/12 before the back-to-back three-pointers).

“The more I’m around L.J. Cryer, the more I’m impressed with his winning intangibles,” Kelvin Sampson said after the game. “He didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight, and he’s an outstanding shooter. But he did when he had to. That’s what winners do. They make plays when they have to.”

Emanuel Sharp continues to improve and had three steals Friday, his first three of the year, to go along with his 15 points off the bench. Before the Utah game, his career high in two-point field goals was two, and attempts were four; he shot 5/9 (55.5%) from two against the Utes. He’s developing another component of his game, vital to making him a more versatile threat.

He also had six rebounds, the second-most of his career. In the three games since Monday, he’s had 14 boards. Sampson has been on Sharp to develop a more well-rounded game – especially in rebounding.

“That’s why our player development program is so important,” Sampson said. “We believe in that development thing.”

J’Wan Roberts rebounded 35% of Utah’s misses while he was in the game, finishing with 13 points and 12 rebounds. He has 23 boards in Charleston in two games.

The team will work out on Saturday but won’t have a crazy-difficult practice. Having played four games in seven days, staff members tell me Kelvin understands his team is exhausted, especially his starters. This pre-Thanksgiving schedule was intentionally difficult. Houston (5-0) will meet Dayton in the championship game Sunday night, and Sampson knows their style of play will require a lot of energy from his team.

The Flyers have beaten LSU and St. John’s in the Charleston Classic. The teams played five times from 1970 to 1975, starting with an NCAA Tournament first-round game in 1970. But the Flyers and Cougars have not played since UH’s first season in the Southwest Conference.


Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is proud to be a corporate sponsor as the Official Personal Injury Law Firm for the University of Houston Athletics.

“As a University of Houston alum, I am honored that the University of Houston Athletics chose our firm to be their official and exclusive personal injury law firm,” says Stewart J. Guss, the firm’s founder.