“It comes down to our heart,” Shead said . “It’s our heart, we don’t want to lose. We want to win for each other. These guys love each other so much and they’re really my brothers, it goes way beyond basketball."
The Coogs are still dancing.
For the third straight tournament, The University of Houston men’s basketball team is headed to the sweet 16.
But it didn’t come without drama. Houston easily ran past The Univeristy of Alabama at Birmingham, winning 82-68 in the first round, but had trouble with Illinois in the second round before eventually pulling away for a 68-53 win.
“I’m proud of our team,” said Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson after the win over Illinois. “After the win over Alabama Birmingham, we knew what we were going to get with Illinois. They’re a good team but it’s not tricky. They throw the ball into the post and run their offense through that. We take pride in our post defense, but everybody is different. Our kids are tough kids and this is a tough program. That’s how we’ve got this far.”
It was an emotional win for the Cougars over the Illini, as they have had to overcome injuries and among other things this season and the team felt doubted.
“You have to let those emotions out sometimes,” said Taze Moore. “With the way we work and the way we prepare for things, and the way we work for these moments it was an amazing feeling to come out on top and get the win to head towards the sweet 16.”
Moore had one of his biggest games of the season for Houston in its win over the Illini, as he scored 21 points while bringing in seven rebounds and collecting an assist in the win. Helping lead the Cougars down the stretch. Jamal Shead had a big game as well, with 18 points and three assists while Kyler Edwards finished with 15 points.
“It comes down to our heart,” Shead said . “It’s our heart, we don’t want to lose. We want to win for each other. These guys love each other so much and they’re really my brothers, it goes way beyond basketball. I don’t get this year back with all of my brothers and we just want to keep it going for as long as we can.
Now, for their efforts to make it to the sweet 16, Houston gets the No. 1 seed Arizona Wildcats on Thursday at 9 p.m.
Arizona comes off a 85-80 win over TCU in overtime in the round of 32.
The Wildcats are led Bennedict Mathurin, who is averaging 17.8 points per game to go with 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game and they also have a big low post presence in Christian Koloko, who averages 12.7 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting a super efficient 64.2 percent from the field.
Arizona won both the Pac-12 regular season and tournament titles and is currently on an eight game win streak heading into the sweet 16.
It will be a challenge for the Cougars, but they are ready for it.
“These guys are great kids and high character kids,” Sampson said. “Because of that they’ve completely bought it. They have never made it about themselves, the program is always about we and us. That’s what happens when you have great kids and they’ll be ready for anything.”