NCAAB - AMERICAN
Arena: Hofheinz Pavilion
Coach: Kelvin Sampson
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
The Houston Cougars have had a successful season thus far. The Cougars stomped perennial powerhouse Virginia by twenty points to begin the season. After six days off, they followed that win up with another win over Butler. Then, they lost a narrow game to Wisconsin by two points.
After this loss, they blew out Northwest State, Bryant, and Alcorn State. They lost a thriller to Alabama in their next game by one point. Since then, the Cougars haven’t lost, including an eleven-point win over power five Oklahoma State on December 18th.
The biggest win of the year for Houston was certainly their win over Oklahoma State on December 18th. The Cougars shot 42.3% from the field in the win, much better than Oklahoma State’s 36%. They also moved the ball better than the Cowboys, compiling 13 assists in the game, while Oklahoma State only had 7.
The most significant advantage, however, was the three-point shooting. Houston shot 44% from three on 11 made baskets, while Oklahoma State shot only 15.8% on just three makes.
The fact was that neither team played very efficiently, with each having many more turnovers than assists. The Cougars had 19 turnovers compared to 13 assists but turned the Cowboys over 18 times compared to their seven assists.
Houston’s basketball history does not go back as far as many other colleges. Men’s basketball did not start at Houston until around the end of World War 2, in 1945. For their coach, the Cougars turned to Houston native Alden Pasche, who had actually been coaching football before being handed the job.
Houston began in the Lone Star conference alongside teams like Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Trinity (Texas), and North Texas. In 1950, Houston jumped to the Missouri Valley Conference, where they would play powerhouses such as Cincinnati and Bradley.
Pasche had a lot of success, most notably leading the Cougars to the 1956 NCAA tournament, actually making the Sweet Sixteen (Before being blown out by Kansas State). Pasche was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year.
After Pasche retired, his former player and assistant, Guy Lewis, was named head coach. He coached there for 30 years. Unfortunately for him, the most famous game that he coached in was the NCAA championship game in 1983, in which North Carolina State beat them on a last-second tip-in.
This moment is considered iconic in college basketball, with the late Jim Valvano running around the court in disbelief.
2022 Key Stats
Last season, Houston scored 76.1 points per game while only allowing 58.2. The 76.1 was not very high in the college basketball ranks, ranking 60th. The Cougars were shooting 43.5% from the floor while only allowing their opponents to shoot 37.8%, the best in the NCAA.
Houston is scoring 78.7 points per game this season, led by Marcus Sasser, who averages 17.7 of those. However, Sasser is leading the way in more than one category, also leading the team in steals with 2.1. Houston doesn’t move the ball particularly well, however, only averaging 15.7 assists per game, with no players averaging six or more.
This type of isolation basketball does not usually work in conference play, and certainly not against superior teams, which Houston may be looking to upset.
While nobody is dominating on the glass for Houston, they seem to be rebounding well as a team. Four players for the Cougars are averaging five or more rebounds. J’Wan Roberts is leading the way with 6.5 per game. Roberts doesn’t do a lot in any other categories, but he plays his role well.
Effective role players like this are essential to a team’s success. Houston does turn the ball over more than ten times per game on average, but they also have 9.5 steals per game on average this year, so that shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
This year, a key for Houston should be not leaning so heavily on Sasser to provide their offense and get him to pass out of double teams to an open teammate. More assists from Sasser (2.6 per game) means more success for Houston.
While Houston doesn’t have any National Championships to their name, they have had sustained success throughout their history. The first Conference Tournament championship won by the Cougars was in 1978, behind Cecil Rose, Charles Thompson, and Mike Schultz.
Schultz, the team’s center, was a huge factor, averaging a double-double (13.2 points, ten rebounds). This led to an exit in the round of 32 at the hands of Notre Dame.
Houston’s biggest margin of victory in a conference tournament championship game came in 1981 when they beat Texas 84-59. This roster had four future NBA players on it: Clyde Drexler, Rob Williams, Michael Young, and Larry Micheaux.
Williams led the way in scoring, averaging 25 points per game. Drexler, the future NBA star, averaged a double-double (11.9 points, 10.5 rebounds).
The most recent conference championship for the Cougars was the latest American Athletic Conference Tournament in 2021. Houston cruised past Tulane in the quarterfinals before barely sneaking past Memphis in the semifinals.
After this win over the Tigers, Houston crushed Cincinnati by 37 points in the championship game. Fifteen players averaged points for Houston on this team, with three averaging double digits. Quentin Grimes led the way with 17.8 points per game that season.
Important Team Events
Although one of the most significant events in Houston cougar basketball history was the Game of the Century, this game took place in the Astrodome. The Cougars took on the Bruins of UCLA, coached by the legendary John Wooden.
Guy Lewis, Houston’s coach at the time, wanted to show the NCAA community that his program deserved to be nationally prominent. UCLA and Houston were nationally ranked #1 and #2, respectively, and were undefeated since they last played.
After an error by UCLA guard Mike Warren, the Cougars won the tightly contested game, 71-69. Both teams didn’t lose again until the National Semifinals when the Bruins blew Houston out.
Another important event in the program’s history was also one of the biggest disappointments for Houston fans. During the 1982-83 season, the “Phi Slama Jama” cougars amassed a 31-2 record en route to the National Championship game. Coming into the game, the Cougars were overwhelming favorites over the North Carolina State Wolfpack, whose regular-season ranking was just #16.
However, Coach Jim Valvano coached the Wolfpack to an unlikely 54-52 win on a last-second rebound dunk by Lorenzo Charles. While Valvano ran around the court in joyful disbelief, the Cougars stewed in their disappointing loss.
There have been many great players in Houston’s history, with many playing in the 1980s. Statistically speaking, Elvin Hayes is the greatest player in program history. Hayes amassed 2,884 points while at Houston and is also considered one of the top NBA players. He also has seven of the ten top single-game scoring performances.
Another of the top players in the history of Houston basketball is Hakeem Olajuwon. He is the second-best rebounder in Cougar history, grabbing over 1,000 during just three seasons there. He also has 454 blocks to his name while at Houston, nearly doubling the second-place pace of Dwight Davis.
Another of the top players in the program’s history is Clyde Drexler. He leads the program in steals and rode that defense and athleticism to NBA greatness.
By far, the most successful coach in Houston history is Guy Lewis. Lewis is most known for being the innovative coach during the “Phi Slama Jama” days, despite not winning any championships.
Unfortunately, despite having players such as Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, the lack of championships paints Lewis as a poor user of talent. Regardless of this, Lewis had a record of 592-279 during his tenure at Houston, nearly winning 70% of his games there. Under Lewis, Houston also made 14 NCAA tournaments and five Final Fours.
The only coach in Houston history to win a better percentage of their games is the current coach, Kelvin Sampson. Sampson has a record of 181-66 at Houston and most recently took them to the Final Four, where they fell to the nearly unbeatable Baylor Bears.
Frequently Asked Questions
In 1996 they joined the American Conference
No. They don’t have any National Championships to their name, they have had sustained success throughout their history.
Clyde Drexler, he leads the program in steals and rode that defense and athleticism to NBA greatness.
Kelvin Sampson since 2014
In 1920, when the school’s name officially became the University of Dayton, they nicknamed themselves the Flyers. Aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright are from Dayton, and the Wright-Patterson Air Force base is nearby.