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No. 3 Houston looks to benefit from rest in meeting vs. Penn

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Houston coach Kelvin Sampson had a dual approach to the holiday break that enabled his team a welcome rest in advance of the final non-conference game on the schedule.

The third-ranked Cougars (12-0) rolled to a 72-37 home victory over Texas State on Dec. 21, and the time between that triumph and their non-conference finale against Penn on Saturday allowed for some healing, particularly for forward J’Wan Roberts.

Roberts leads the Cougars in rebounding at 7.1 per game but has been slowed by knee pain. He sat out the second half of the win over the Bobcats and returned to practice this week raring to go and with such vigor that Sampson had to step in and slow down his high-energy redshirt senior.

“Some of this stuff, it doesn’t make any sense for J’Wan to do,” Sampson said. “Sometimes the coach has to be the adult in the room. I’ve had that kid for five years now. I know what he can do.”

As for the downside, Sampson expressed concern over facing the Quakers immediately following the scheduled intermission. Penn spreads the floor and relies on perimeter shooting, a scheme that requires opposing defenses to be dialed into the game plan and sharp as a tack. Lulls could prove dangerous, so the challenge facing Houston is resuming its defensive might with haste.

Part of that continued growth is moving forward without sophomore swingman Terrance Arceneaux, who was lost for the season to an Achilles injury suffered during a win over Texas A&M on Dec. 16. The Cougars have logged just one game since Arceneaux went down, and replacing his production won’t be an easy task, and it won’t be something Houston does quickly.

“Losing Terrance was a big hit,” Sampson said. “It chews up into your depth. Where it really hurts you is in practice because you just don’t have guys who can do what he did.

“We’ve got some things that we need to work on. We’re certainly not a finished product. We’re very much a work in progress, especially after Terrance went down. We’ve got to figure out some things right now. I don’t have the answers for everything. We’ve got to keep working at it.”

Penn (8-5) won for the third time in four games on Saturday despite blowing a 13-point halftime lead, surviving its fourth overtime game of the season with a 77-73 road victory over Rider. It marked the first overtime win for the Quakers and snapped an overall six-game losing skid in overtime.

“We talked about it as a team and our difference tonight was we’re not going to fold, we’re not going to allow what happened the first 40 affect us positively or negatively,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said, per The Trentonian. “I give our guys credit for the resolve that we showed. I thought we played really well on defense in the overtime.”

Junior forward/center Nick Spinoso posted his second double-double by pairing 19 points with 11 rebounds. He also recorded a game-high four assists. Freshman guard Sam Brown, recently named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for a second time, added 14 points and a career-high eight rebounds while senior guard Clark Slajchert totaled 14 points and season highs in rebounds (six) and steals (three). Slajchert leads Penn in scoring at 18.8 points per game.

Penn, 1-24 all-time against top-five-ranked teams, will make its first visit to Texas since an 80-61 loss to Rice during the 2019-20 campaign.

–Field Level Media

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