WVU wasn’t ready for Houston’s physicality

WVU had a plan. And plans work until you get punched in the face.

The Mountaineers scheduled Ohio State right before league play started. They figured that tOSU would be a fair representation of what they’d see from Houston. Ohio State is tough, bruising, and a legitimate basketball school.

The plan worked perfectly…until the ball tipped in Houston.

the daily #156 | 1/7/2024 | Archives

Culture. The Coogs were more physical than WVU, more willing to lay their bodies out there, more willing to contest every shot, more willing to do every little thing it took. The result: Houston tied WVU’s worst-ever Big 12 loss.

WVU’s core have not been playing together very long, so it was encouraging that they took Ohio State to overtime last weekend in Cleveland. But the game meant to prepare them for Houston did little of it. WVU could not match UH’s physicality, and the Cougars shredded their man-to-man defense. So, like they did against tOSU, the Eers went to a zone. Kelvin Sampson has been furious with his team against the zone this year. On Saturday? Houston knifed through it with ease.

The Cougars shot 53% from the floor and 50% from three-point range and did it with just five turnovers (3 coming once the game was well in hand).

Suffocating. WVU’s nucleus of shooters – Battle, Slazinski, and Farrakhan – had been lighting it up in the three games they’d played together. The trio shot 57/126 (45.2%) collectively in those three games (158 points / 52.7 ppg) and 50 rebounds (16.7 rpg). They would likely present matchup problems for this UH team that was missing Terrance Arceneaux and had a hobbled four in J’Wan Roberts. Right?


The WVU threesome went 8/32 (25%) against the Cougar defense for 21 points and a paltry seven rebounds.

Houston wanted to shut them down in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock but knew they’d destroy them in non-transition offense. In the last three games, WVU was 65/133 (48.9%) as a team in non-transition offense. Against the UH defense, they were 13/44 (29.5%).

Teams just cannot replicate what UH does to them for the entire 30 seconds of the shot clock.

The fourth guy in the offense – Kerr Kriisa – had 21 assists in the last three games combined. He had one Saturday afternoon.

Cougars Stepping Up. Houston embarrassed the Mountaineers. Emanuel Sharp deserves a lot of credit for shutting down Battle, who was averaging 27 ppg. Sharp’s defense continues to improve, and he will significantly contribute during Big 12 play. He had eight points and seven boards, which was a game-high.

In the opening minutes, Sharp set the tone // Photo © 2024 by Mario Puente

Over the past few days, Kelvin Sampson and Quannas White have told me that Damian Dunn is coming and that they see it in practice. Dunn played great defense, made all four from the line, and was 4/8 from the floor. He also had three boards and two blocks.

J’Wan Roberts had a particularly satisfying game. He returned from injury but drew the role of guarding Quinn Slazinski, the long 6’9″ guard playing the four role. J’Wan has been steadily improving his perimeter defense, and Saturday was proof. Slazinski took 11 shots – 3 at the rim, a two-point jumper, and seven three-pointers. He made two at the rim and a three. J’Wan Roberts held him to 1/8 away from the rim and 1/7 on the perimeter.

L.J. Cryer was 7/12 from the floor, but it was sort of an afterthought due to the play of so many others. Jamal Shead had five rebounds, four blocks, and 11 assists compared to one turnover. 11 to 1. Nuts.

After the game, the team lingered in the Fertitta Center for longer than normal, showered, and came back out. Their friends and family celebrated the win and enjoyed their Big 12 debut.

But that’s about all the celebrating they’ll get. The switch flips today – an afternoon practice followed by another tomorrow morning before a flight into snowy Ames. Iowa State was beaten late by OU Saturday but will have a big, energized crowd to welcome the #3 team in the country.

GoCoogs will be in Ames, giving you a taste of the atmosphere, game, and Cougar After Thoughts Show. Now is a great time to take advantage of our 50% off subscription price which expires next week. GoCoogs.com subscribers get more inside information than anyone – no other outlet comes anywhere close to providing as much quality Houston Cougar content on a daily basis.


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