NCAA Basketball

No. 8 Houston stresses defense against South Florida

Houston will look to regain its stout defensive identity on Wednesday night when it jumps back into American Athletic Conference play against South Florida in Tampa, Fla.

The Cougars (16-2, 10-2 AAC) allowed East Carolina to shoot 47.4 percent and make 11 3-pointers in their 82-73 road loss last week. It was a stark contrast to the effectiveness Houston has shown for most of the season on that end of the floor.

The No. 8 Cougars rank near the top of the nation in points allowed per game (56.9), opponents' field goal percentage (36.1) and opponents' 3-point percentage (25.1).

"We just didn't look like we were playing Cougar basketball tonight ... in no form or fashion," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said after that game.

The Cougars got back in the win column this past Saturday with a 112-46 win at home over NAIA program Our Lady of the Lake.

Houston played several reserves in the game and Sampson's son, Kellen, an assistant who normally coaches the second unit in practice, coached the game.

The Cougars' lead scoring tandem of Quentin Grimes (16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game) and Marcus Sasser (15.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists per game, 38.3 percent shooting from 3-point range) were among the starters that did not play.

Sophomore Cameron Tyson made a school-record 10 3-pointers and had a career-high 32 points.

"'I wouldn't say it really got (the bad taste from the East Carolina loss) out of our mouths because it's going to be something that sticks with us for the rest of the season, but I would say it did help," Tyson said.

South Florida (7-5, 3-3) has not played since beating East Carolina on Jan. 9. Due to COVID-19 issues, the Bulls have had six games postponed overall, including this matchup against Houston which was originally scheduled for Jan. 14.

David Collins delivered in the clutch against the Pirates with 14 of his 16 points in the second half of the 69-63 win. Collins leads South Florida in points (12.3) and assists per game (3.8), and he is shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range.

"I thought the shots he made in the second half were exactly the shots we're looking for him to take," South Florida coach Brian Gregory said. "Now he made some bad decisions down the stretch, that's something we need to work on and get better at. But he's a go-to guy for us and we need him and we [have] got to count on him, and his biggest thing is just the consistency of his play."

Caleb Murphy (10.1 points, 3.5 assists per game) was dealing with a hip pointer at the time South Florida paused all activities. Alexis Yetna leads the Bulls' frontcourt with 10.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

It allowed for more minutes for Xavier Castaneda and Russel Tchewa.

"Russell has to rebound better, and to come out and get the five rebounds in the 12 minutes was great," Gregory said after the game. "He's got a good feel for us defensively, but you still got to remember he's like a freshman for us, everything is new."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 9, 2021

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