“We’re getting better, but this game is over, and you don’t get any carry over points for that,” Sampson said. “Once we get to practice tomorrow it’s a totally different story. We’ll go over our goals and we have zero interest in this game anymore."
The University of Houston came into this season with high expectations.
After back-to-back years in which they reached the elite eight, it looked like this year could be the one where they made a breakthrough towards a national championship.
But Kelvin Sampson and his team aren’t worried about that. The tournament, their long-term goals and looking ahead are not what the Cougars are focused on, all they care about is winning the day.
That focused showed on Tuesday as the Cougars trounced SMU 87-53 to win their sixth straight game as Houston continued a dominant start to American Athletic Conference play.
It was the third win in a row in ACC this season for Houston and it was in classic Kelvin Sampson fashion, with a team that spread the ball offensively and played suffocating defense.
“When you have a veteran group, you know what you’re going to get every night and that’s what I appreciate about this group. The thing I liked tonight is that our defense led us,” Sampson said. “We got our energy from our defense. That started with Jamal (Shead) and Marcus (Sasser) and Tramon (Mark), those three guys at the point of attack were great tonight.”
It was a career day for true freshman Jarace Walker, who tied a career high in points with 23, but showed how dominant he could be in the first half. Walker started the game with 16 points in under 10 minutes of play and 18 points heading into halftime, showing moves in the post, pick and roll and on catch and shoot. He also added 10 rebounds and three assists in what was the strongest game of his collegiate career thus far.
“When he plays like that it just takes us to another level offensively,” Sasser said. “When he’s doing what he does it makes the game easy for the whole team because it opens things up for us. The defense has to key in on him when he’s playing at that level and it gives everyone open shots. It opens up the entire offense.
The Cougars came soaring out the gates behind Walker, taking a huge lead early and never looking back.
The Cougars led by 26 points heading into halftime and just continued to build on it in the second half, leading by as many as 39 in the blowout win. Rebounding was a huge factor as Houston had more than twice as many as SMU.
It was the eighth 30-point win for the Cougars this season, which is the most the program has had in a single season since 1978.
Houston will likely be favored in every game the rest of the way this regular season as they look to secure a No. 1 seed heading into the NCAA tournament. The Cougars will play Cincinnati next before taking on South Florida at home, as they try to continue a strong run.
“We’re getting better, but this game is over, and you don’t get any carry over points for that,” Sampson said. “Once we get to practice tomorrow it’s a totally different story. We’ll go over our goals and we have zero interest in this game anymore, we have to stay focused on the next one.”