Cougars look­ing for an­other qual­ity win to beef up ré­sumé

Houston Chronicle - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - joseph.duarte@chron.com twit­ter.com/joseph_­d­uarte By Joseph Duarte

Univer­sity of Hous­ton coach Kelvin Samp­son can see the im­prove­ment in his bas­ket­ball team dur­ing a 4-1 start in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence.

“I just like the way our team is pro­gress­ing,” Samp­son said. “We’re so much bet­ter to­day than we were a month ago.”

The Cougars, 13-4 over­all, con­clude a two-game road swing Satur­day against Cen­tral Florida at CFE Arena in Or­lando, Fla.

Ex­celling on road

UH is off to a fast start in the AAC de­spite a stretch that in­cludes four of its first six games on the road.

The Cougars al­ready own vic­to­ries at Con­necti­cut, South Florida and East Carolina, be­com­ing the sixth team in school his­tory — and first since the 2007-08 sea­son — to win each of its first three con­fer­ence road games.

It has been a steady climb for UH, which Samp­son said was “still try­ing to fig­ure it out” in early De­cem­ber af­ter a pair of road losses to LSU and Arkansas.

Since then, the Cougars have won seven of the last nine games — the only set­backs to Har­vard and No. 22 Cincin­nati — even with top in­side pres­ence Devin Davis out in­def­i­nitely with plan­tar fasci­itis in his left foot.

The Cougars bounced back from the loss to Cincin­nati by hit­ting 13 3-point­ers dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s 74-58 vic­tory at East Carolina.

Cen­tral Florida presents an­other op­por­tu­nity for the Cougars to pick up a ré­sumé-build­ing vic­tory against a team with a Rat­ing Per­cent­age In­dex be­low 100.

Tak­ing on the Fall guy

The Knights (12-4, 3-1 AAC) are No. 85 in the lat­est NCAA RPI; the Cougars are No. 63.

“We need as many of these top 100 type wins as we can get,” Samp­son said.

While a lack of de­pend­able op­tions in­side has forced the Cougars to go with a smaller guard­heavy lineup, UH will have to con­tend with Cen­tral Florida’s 7-6 sopho­more cen­ter Tacko Fall. Fall is av­er­ag­ing 13.4 points and 10.7 re­bounds while shoot­ing 79.3 per­cent, se­cond best in the na­tion.

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