No. 5 Houston hosts Oklahoma State, focuses on bounce-back

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 05 Feb, 2024 at 07:12 PM

Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Houston will be careful not to overlook Oklahoma State when the Cowboys visit for a Big 12 game on Tuesday night.

The Cougars are 19-3 overall and 6-3 in their first year in the Big 12, while Oklahoma State (10-12, 2-7) is in last place in the conference.

"We've got a game Tuesday night, and that one counts the exact same as this one," Kelvin Sampson said Saturday after Houston lost 78-65 at eighth-ranked Kansas. "That's the next game in this league. ... It's so tough, there are no upsets on the road in this league."

Sampson takes pride in the Cougars' nation-best defense, so the Kansas loss stung the coach.

The Jayhawks shot a blistering 68.9 percent from the floor and outrebounded Houston 40-24 in the Cougars' worst regular-season loss in two years.

"Sometimes, you've got to give the other team some credit, too," Sampson said. "Excuse my French, but they shot the (expletive) out of it. ...

"I told the team I was disappointed with their effort. That's not who we are."

Even after the loss to Kansas, Houston's smothering defense allows just 54 points per game, the No. 1 mark in the nation.

Oklahoma State averages just 71.1 points per game, 255th in the nation, so the Cowboys will have their work cut out in Houston.

Oklahoma State is coming off a feel-good 75-72 win at home over Kansas State. The Cowboys won despite the loss of their No. 2 scorer - guard Bryce Thompson - who suffered a torn labrum in a defeat to Kansas last Tuesday and will require surgery.

"I feel like the team understands that Bryce is out," Cowboys guard Javon Small said. "There's now just another spot for somebody else to step up."

Stepping into the gap was sophomore guard Quion Williams, who notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds (all the rebounds in the first half) against Kansas State.

Said Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton: "I don't know if I've ever had a kid who got 10 rebounds in a half. We challenged him to step up and be more reliable. These things aren't easy. I think it shows that we have really high-character people."

Freshman guard Jamyron Keller also stepped up for the Cowboys, with 12 points against Kansas State.

"I challenged him (Keller) a while back, honestly," Boynton said. "Until you get out there and it's really happening -- and it happens fast. It happens way faster than it looks like it's happening from even where I'm sitting."

The all-around performer Small leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 13.9 points per game, and also contributes 5.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

In the absence of Thompson, Eric Dailey Jr. (9.5 ppg) is now the Cowboys' second scoring option.

For Houston, defense is key, of course - but guards LJ Cryer (15.5 ppg), Emanuel Sharp (12.1 ppg) and Jamal Shead (12.0 ppg) are the leading scorers.

The teams have played each other only three times since 2018, with Houston holding a 2-1 edge.

Oklahoma State won 61-55 the last time the teams played at Houston, on Dec. 15, 2019, and the Cowboys lead the all-time series 13-9.

--Field Level Media