When push came to game-winning shove, Houston — which notched wins this season over NCAA qualifiers Cincinnati and Wichita State, Nos. 5 and 7 at the time — deftly navigated a place they’d been before.
“It was just a rock fight,” Sampson said. “You know, we’re used to being in rock fights.”
There was plenty of first-half, ball-security blame to share. No one had more than two, making it a true collective effort. Kell had two. Pope had two. Jalen McDaniels had two. Max Montana had two.
“That was something we talked about it at halftime,” said Kell, who didn’t commit another after halftime and finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. “We’re usually a team that doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, and in the first half we did that. And we felt like that led to some easy baskets for them.