While most college basketball fans were probably watching Duke take on North Carolina in the most recent chapter of their storied rivalry on Wednesday night, fans of the Houston Cougars, instead, had their eyes on ESPNews, where their team defeated Tulane, 82-69, and completed a regular season sweep of the Green Wave.
Playing in Devlin Fieldhouse, on the Tulane campus, Houston entered this game having won five of their last six. And while Tulane has struggled to get wins this season, especially in conference play, they were on a two game winning streak, and hoped to use this momentum to spoil the Cougars’ strong stretch of previous games.
The primary headline was Houston leading scorer Rob Gray Jr’s return. The point guard had missed the previous four games with an ankle injury he sustained in overtime against East Carolina.
But when the ball was tipped off, the both offenses were sluggish. When Gray entered the game, though, the Cougar offense improved. He appeared sharp in his role off the bench. Houston jumped out to 33-27 lead with 2:36 left in the first half. But the Green Wave then went on an 8-0 run, which was facilitated by four made free throws created by a Kyle Meyer foul, and a subsequent technical foul incurred from his emotional reaction. But the Cougars answered with a 6-0 run to end the first half, 39-35.
The second half began as well as the first ended, with a Rob Gray steal that ended in a perfectly executed lay up. The Cougars compiled a ten-point lead. But another momentum shift occurred, and Tulane went on a 7-0 run, to bring the game within two, 49-47. Then Green Wave guard Malik Morgan and Daymean Dotson took over the game for a few minutes, trading shots, both unable to miss.
Houston’s depth, however, eventually won out. Morgan went cold, and Ronnie Johnson began to make some timely shots, and the Cougars prevailed, 82-69.
Houston did have some trouble containing big man, Dylan Osetkowski on offense and defense. He had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Louis Dabney added 23 points, going 4-6 from three. And Malik Morgan ended up with 18 points.
But, ultimately, the Cougars had too many weapons. Dotson had a team-high 19 points, Johnson 17, and Pollard and Gray with 13 a piece. Houston outrebounded Tulane, 36-31 and shot a respectable 15-18 from the free throw line.
With their loss, Tulane falls to 10-17 and 3-11 in conference. The Cougars are now 19-7 and 9-5 in conference. They remain at fourth among post-season eligible teams. Left on their schedule are the three teams ahead of them in the American Athletic Conference standings.
So, while this road win was important for the Cougars, their remaining games have significant conference tournament seeding implications. But if you watched Houston on Wednesday night, instead of the two teams that wear different shades of blue and are separated by a road lined with a carcinogenic plant, then you know that this squad is capable of winning some of these games down the stretch. And with a healthy Rob Gray going forward, Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars could really make some noise in the conference tournament.