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The Scouting Report: Houston Cougars

“The biggest thing I can do for him is develop his swagger." -Kelvin Sampson on Danrad "Chicken" Knowles

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 8-12, 0-8 AAC
Head Coach: Kelvin Sampson

Kenpom: 249
RPI: 241
BPI: 240

Houston started off the season going 7-4 before heading into conference play, with only one notable win over Texas Tech.  The Cougars got a strong performance from junior guard Jherrod Stiggers who poured in 25 points on 8-12 shooting, 7-9 from three.  Other games of note include a tough loss to Boise State 75-73 in overtime and an 84-63 loss at Harvard.  In Houston's first game of the year, they beat Murray State 77-74 which is worth talking about strictly because of the final score.

Houston has lost every game in AAC play so far, losing three games by a combined nine points.  They lost to UCF 79-78 in overtime, East Carolina 66-61, and Tulane 68-65.  Luckily for Houston, they got a break from the American conference, and played crosstown-rival, Rice University.  The Cougars shot 42.3% and 7-25 from three, while getting a 13 point, 6 rebound performance out of LeRon Barnes in a 59-48 victory.

Offensively, Houston has struggled.  They rank 211th in PPG at 66.0 and 330th in field goal percentage at 38.9%.  They do not have one player shooting over 50% from the field, and only two of their rotation players shoot over 40%.  Combining the poor offensive shooting with 14 turnovers per game is a big reason why Kelvin Sampson's squad is 8-12 overall and 0-8 in conference.

Key Players:

#21 Jherrod Stiggers, Junior, Guard (6-4, 215): The team's leading scorer at 14.9 PPG while also averaging 3.5 RPG and 2.5 APG in 35.4 MPG.  Stiggers is one of three players who play over 30 minutes a game, and he spends most of his time shooting three-pointers.  The junior is shooting 34% from behind the arc and has attempted 194 threes which is tied for 2nd in the nation in three-point attempts.  Stiggers is not much better from inside the arc, as he is shooting just 37.5% on two-pointers.  He is averaging 12.5 PPG in conference play while going 20-68 from deep.

#0 Danrad Knowles, Sophomore, Forward (6-10, 190): Given the nickname "Chicken" due to his skinny frame, Knowles is averaging 11.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.4 BPG.  He is able to stretch the floor and is shooting 44.4% from the field and 36.0% from three.  Knowles is starting to develop the confidence that is needed to succeed and Sampson said, "The biggest thing I can do for him is develop his swagger."  He has shown that in conference play, averaging 13.9 PPG and shooting 46.3% from the field.  Knowles has scored in double figures the past five games, including a 31 point performance in the loss to Tulane.

#24 Devonta Pollard, Junior, Forward (6-8, 200): A once top-50 recruit who signed with Alabama, Pollard ended up in some legal trouble, forcing him to bounce around before finding a home in Houston.  He is averaging 10.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG in 29.9 MPG while shooting 44.6% from the field.  Pollard has a ton of potential with his athleticism and has the ability to develop into a nice player for Sampson.  He is averaging 8.9 PPG in AAC play and has scored in double figures in 11 games this season.

#5 L.J. Rose, Junior, Guard (6-3, 200): A top-100 recruit who played at Baylor to start his college career, Rose is averaging 9.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 35.1 MPG.  He is the only pure point guard for the Cougars which is a major reason why he plays so many minutes.  Although he has good court vision and the ability to make plays for others, he has struggled from the field, shooting just 35.5% from the field and 11-47 from three.  Rose is averaging 8.1 PPG and 5.6 APG and has scored in double figures four different times in conference play.

#4 LeRon Barnes, Junior, Guard (6-5, 195): Coming off one of his best games of the year in Houston's win over Rice, Barnes is averaging 6.3 PPG while leading the team in RPG at 6.5.  He brings experience from last season as he started 15 games, and has continued to be a major role player for Kelvin Sampson.  Barnes has the ability to play solid defense while rebounding which has led to him playing 33.8 MPG.  He is averaging 6.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG in AAC play.

***

Houston is coached by Kelvin Sampson who is in his first year with the Cougars.  Sampson is finally back in college basketball after dealing with violations while trying to recruit Eric Gordon at Indiana.  The 59 year old spent some time as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets before taking this job.  While at Indiana, he went 43-15 in two years but was forced to resign during the 2007-08 season after a 22-4 start (one of those losses was to UConn when Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins were suspended).

Before Indiana, Sampson coached at Oklahoma for 12 seasons where he went 279-109, making it to the NCAA Tournament in all but one season, including a Final Four appearance in the 2001-02 season.  Before Oklahoma, he coached at Washington State for seven years where he went 103-103.  Sampson's career started at Montana Texh, where he went 73-45 in four years.  Overall, he is 508-282.