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Houston’s depth continues to be the strength of the team

Houston guard Nate Hinton (11) and guard Quentin Grimes (24) celebrate a scoring drive during a time out in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wichita State Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston guard Nate Hinton (11) and guard Quentin Grimes (24) celebrate a scoring drive during a time out in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wichita State Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


HOUSTON – As a result of losing four seniors, University of Houston head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson said he expected this year’s team would take its bumps and bruises throughout the season. After the blowout win over Wichita State 76-43, Sampson credited the team’s preparation and maturity.

Sampson has developed a culture and level of expectation to win here that players must buy into fast. Playing hard on the defensive end, in addition to playing smart within the offensive system, and rebounding the basketball are all key components to the culture.

What we learned from this weekend’s game

Sunday, Houston arguably played their best defensive game, holding Wichita State to 26.5% field goal shooting. Also, outrebounding the Shockers 44-30, while shooting 50% from the field. Five players finished with double-digit points.

“We played five perimeter guys today, two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior," Sampson said after Sunday’s win. “You don’t start off being mature, because you are fighting bad habits, tendencies. Then they have to surrender. I think that’s the most important thing that kids can do is in our program is surrender to our culture. The effort it takes to play here, the toughness we require, that’s not easy to do. Especially for young guys, and this is by far the youngest team we have had.”

Latest on rankings

Houston (19-5) are now solely in first place in the American Athletic Conference standings, with a record of 9-2. In the latest national rankings, the Cougars climbed up six spots in the USA Today coaches poll to No.19 and five spots in the Associated Press poll to No. 20. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Houston projected as a 7th seed in the East (New York) region.

This week’s competition

Houston hits the road for a pair of road games against two teams they have beaten once this year. The Cougars are 5-3 on the road this season.

Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida, Houston will take on the USF Bulls. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and KPRC 950 AM radio. The Cougars beat USF 68-49 in their first matchup in Houston in addition they’ve won six consecutive games over the Bulls. Since USF’s last lost to Houston, they have gone on a three-game winning streak, most recent win against Memphis 75-73. USF (11-12) overall in the conference, has a home record of 8-4.

Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Houston will try to knock off their in-state conference rival SMU for the second time. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and KPRC 950 AM. In the first matchup, Houston pulled away in the second half and ended with a final score of 71-62. The Mustangs (16-6, 6-4) have only lost one home game out of 13 all year.