No. 2 Houston holds its highest ranking in nearly four decades thanks to a dominant November to date. The Cougars aim to keep cruising when they host Kent State on Saturday.
While the Cougars (5-0) have yet to face a ranked team, they’ve won every game by double figures, including a 66-56 victory at Oregon on Sunday.
Houston held the Ducks to 38.8 percent shooting from the field, including an abysmal 3 of 22 from 3-point range, and scored a whopping 30 points off Oregon’s 16 turnovers.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Any time you go on the road and hold a team to 38 percent shooting in their gym, that’s pretty good.”
Houston has been just as impressive defensively while winning its five games by an average of 31.2 points.
The Cougars are first nationally in opponent field-goal percentage (30.4 percent), second in scoring defense (48.0 ppg) and third in opponent 3-point percentage (19.8 percent).
“It is still early and there is not one part of the game we are not going to get better at,” Sampson said after beating the Ducks. “It was our fifth game, not our 25th.”
The Cougars have been rewarded with their highest ranking since Feb. 27, 1984, when Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the rest of Phi Slama Jama were also ranked No. 2 during their run to the national title game.
Houston is led by preseason All-American Marcus Sasser, who averages a team-high 16.6 points and 3.0 assists per game, while Tramon Mark averages 10.6 points and 4.0 rebounds. J’Wan Roberts chips in 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
The team’s top freshmen — five-star forward Jarace Walker and four-star guard Terrance Arceneaux — have also contributed significantly. Walker averages 12.4 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds, while Arceneaux contributes 9.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.
Arceneaux had 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including three 3-pointers, to go along with five rebounds and three steals against the Ducks. Walker added 10 points and made both of his 3-point attempts, in addition to posting six rebounds and three assists.
“It was very exciting,” Arceneaux said. “I am glad to be able to do it with these guys. It is a great experience for me learning from the older guys. I hope we can continue this streak we have going on and get better as a team.”
Kent State (5-1) is coming off its first loss of the season when Jaylon Scott hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to lift Charleston to a 74-72 win over the visiting Golden Flashes on Wednesday.
Sincere Carry had 25 points and five assists, while Malique Jacobs added 15 points, four assists, four steals and two blocks and Miryne Thomas added 13 points, six rebounds and two steals for Kent State.
The Golden Flashes have four players who average in double figures in scoring, led by Carry’s 19.8 points and Jacobs’ 13.2. Thomas chips in 12.0 and 5.8 rebounds per game, while Giovanni Santiago averages 10.8 points per game.
Kent State’s game against Houston will be its first against a Power 5 team this season.
“We will have to compete on the glass to have a chance in this game,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “We are going to have to play physically without fouling, that is another area that we are going to have to learn from this game to have a chance there.”
–Field Level Media