No. 6 Houston visits upset-minded UCF
Sixth-ranked Houston, which is currently higher in the rankings than at any point since finishing the 1983-84 season at No. 5, are set to visit Central Florida in an American Athletic Conference game Saturday afternoon at Orlando, Fla.
Houston (6-0, 1-0), which will be playing its first road game of the season, is led by Quentin Grimes, who ranks third in the league in scoring (20.0), third in free-throw percentage (87.1), fifth in rebounding (7.7 per game) and tied for fifth in 3-pointers made per game (2.5). He is also second in the league in minutes per game (35.0) and has scored at least 20 points in three straight contests.
UCF (3-1, 1-0) already owns victories over Auburn, Florida State and Cincinnati. That second win snapped Florida State's 27-game home winning streak at a time when the Seminoles were ranked 15th in the nation.
Most recently, UCF beat Cincinnati 75-70 on the strength of Brandon Mahan's game-high 25 points and team-high 10 rebounds. The Knights also got 15 points from Isaiah Adams, who is establishing himself as one of the best freshmen in the AAC, and 12 points from Darin Green Jr.
UCF led at one point 60-47, but Cincinnati rallied to within one point at 71-70 with 64 seconds left.
"I liked our poise at the end of the game," Knights coach Johnny Dawkins said. "You have to have that type of composure. We're growing up some.'
UCF, picked to finish eighth in the 11-team AAC, has been a surprise so far, in part because of good shooting. UCF ranks second in the league in 3-point shooting (37.5 percent) and free-throw percentage (77.5).
In addition, Mahan leads the league in scoring (22.5), Adams ranks eighth (14.3), and Green is 16th (12.8).
But the Knights are vulnerable on the boards, where they are last in the conference in rebounding margin (minus-7.5). Houston leads the league in rebound margin (plus-13.2).
Houston also ranks second in scoring (77.0) and first in points allowed per game (54.7), scoring margin (22.3), steals (9.5 per game), turnover margin (plus-5), field-goal defense (36.7 percent) and 3-point field goal defense (22.7 percent).
Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson said Houston's "calling card" is its depth, and the team could get even deeper Saturday. Caleb Mills, the AAC's Preseason Player of the Year, was available but did not play on Tuesday against Temple. He had missed the past two games while adhering to COVID-19 protocols but Sampson said Mills could get on the court against UCF.
In addition, Houston's Marcus Sasser, who returned on Tuesday after being out since Nov. 29 due to COVID-19 protocol, should be more involved Saturday. He scored just five points in 27 minutes against Temple, which is well below his average of 14.3 points per game.
Houston's Justin Gorham, who leads the league in offensive rebounds (4.8 per game), said the Cougars' success this season is no secret.
"You know what helps scoring? Offensive rebounds," said Gorham, who ranks second in the league in overall boards with 8.3 per game.
Gorham has 28 rebounds in his past two games.
"Rebounding is not for everybody," Sampson said. "But Justin is a tough kid. He ain't no pretty boy."
--Field Level Media
Updated December 24, 2020