Houston Cougars vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Live Score and Stats – December 29, 2020 Gametracker

The fifth-ranked Houston Cougars had rolled to a pair of easy victories following their 15-day pause of team activities caused by a COVID-19 outbreak, but an inevitable test awaited them.

That challenge came on Saturday night in Orlando in the form of a UCF squad coming off a road upset of then-No. 15 Florida State. Despite some ragged moments, Houston (7-0, 2-0 American) found a way to squeeze out a 63-54 victory that kept its perfect record intact.

“I refuse to overreact when we play poorly or really good because we just haven’t had enough time to get in the gym with each other,” Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said.

“I was proud that we found a way to win the game. I think that says a lot about our culture and the way our kids are built.”

Houston will face Tulsa on Tuesday at the Reynolds Center armed with its full complement of talented guards. Injuries and the coronavirus had ravaged the Houston backcourt to varying degrees, but against UCF, the Cougars turned to their most able hands for deliverance.

While guard Marcus Sasser paced the Cougars with 19 points, it was guard Caleb Mills who helped carry the Cougars home with seven of his 12 points coming down the stretch.

Mills was the lone Houston player to score a field goal over the final seven minutes, carrying the offense just long enough until Houston finished 11-for-11 from the free-throw line in the final 2:24 to cap the triumph. Guard DeJon Jarreau sank the final four free throws.

“This game is a lesson for us,” Mills said, “even though we won.”

Tulsa (4-3, 1-1 American) recorded its third consecutive win with a 102-45 drubbing of Southwestern Christian on Dec. 23. The Golden Hurricane dropped their first game following a pair of postponements, a 69-65 conference setback to Wichita State, but has recovered in fine form.

The home victory over the Eagles featured freshman guard Keshawn Williams and senior Manny Ugboh recording career-high scoring totals of 20 points and 13 points, respectively. That duo shot a combined 14 of 15 from the floor with Williams adding nine assists and six rebounds.

Tulsa coach Frank Haith, whose 120th win at Tulsa moved him into third place in program history past Nolan Richardson, utilized 14 players in the easy victory, with 13 scoring in the contest. It marked the final scheduled nonconference game of the season for the Hurricane and a tune up for the challenges to come over the remainder of the American Conference slate.

“I’ve been a part of some games like this in the past and they’ve gotten ragged,” Haith said. “I want to applaud our guys for playing it the right way.

“There were some things we wanted to get accomplished in the game. I really wanted Keshawn Williams and Keyshawn Embery to get some minutes at the 1, so we let Eli (guard Elijah Joiner) rest up. We needed a lot of guys to get court time and I’m really encouraged with what I saw. Hopefully, we can continue to grow over the holidays.”

–Field Level Media

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