All the items were there and doing commendable, and Houston’s dismantling of the UCF Sunday visit was a showcase for the Cougars’ excellence.
However, as proof of just how high the bar had been raised for the No. 8 Cougars, there was plenty to judge how they could improve on their near-perfect first half. The Cougars led the break at 45:19 after knocking down 6 of 14 3-point attempts and scoring seven steals.
Ultimately, the Cougars won for the fourth time in a row, a 75:58 decision that Houston (11-1, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) will use as a springboard for Wednesday’s rematch against Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane gave the Cougars their only loss of the season and prevailed 65-64 on December 29 in Tulsa.
Commenting on the Cougars’ win over UCF, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said, “The teachers are always looking for lesson moments and we’ve had many. Many good moments too. If you listen to me, you’d think we lost.” But I’m pretty sure we won, right? “
Individually and together, the cougars gave insights into what makes them impressive. They enforced 20 turnovers and converted those mistakes into 22 points, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds that resulted in 14 second chance points and limiting UCF to 4 of 19 3-point shots.
Houston’s Quentin Grimes scored 18 points, essentially matching his team-leading average of 17.8, while Justin Gorham added 15 points and nine rebounds.
In a time of stops and starts, the Cougars seem to find their step. Last Thursday’s scheduled street game against South Florida was postponed due to COVID-19 issues under the Bulls program and Houston responded with sharp practices indicating its upward trend.
The Cougars appear to have improved since their Tulsa setback.
“We’re 6-1 in the league and we’re just going to move forward,” said Sampson.
Tulsa (8-4, 5-2) can claim to be a true conference attendee if they can claim a second win over the Cougars. The Golden Hurricane played from behind against Houston early in the first half before taking the late win. A pattern that Tulsa followed in their 58:57 win over Memphis on Sunday.
The Golden Hurricane was nine points behind the win in the first half against Memphis. Elijah Joiner scored 14 points and Brandon Rachal had 12 to speed up Tulsa.
Tulsa was 11 points behind in an angry win over the Cougars before bouncing back.
“I think the biggest thing is that we had some of those games that we didn’t do a good job in when we got back and I think we fought in Wichita the other day when we got back,” said Tulsa coach Frank Haith . “But we have some veterans, Brandon and Elijah in particular, and our conversations are always next owned. Keep playing and we know it will be that type of game.
“We just have to keep stopping, keep getting clean rebounds – just the stuff we can control. And then the shots will be fired.
“We have to keep playing the way we want to play.”
– Field level media