The Houston Roundball Review is an online basketball publication
by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Coogs cruise past McNeese in Season Opener

Posted: November 10, 2017 -- 11:25 pm CDT.
HOUSTON, TX (H&PE Arena) -- The Houston Cougars tipped off the 2017-'18 college basketball season with a solid 81-53 victory over McNeese Friday night inside Texas Southern's Health and Physical Education Arena (H&PE Arena) -- the Coogs temporary home away from home for this season.

Sophomore guard Armoni Brooks scored a career-high 22 points in the ball game. Brooks was sensational: he shot 8 for 11 from the floor overall; but, he was a perfect 6 for 6 in the first half, including 3 for 3 from three-point range, in the first half to help the Coogs to a 48-34 lead at halftime.

"I hit a few of my shots at the beginning tonight; but, it was my teammates having that confidence in me along with their willingness to feed me the ball," Brooks said after the game. "If they have that amount of confidence in me, I have the same amount of confidence in myself."

Brooks scored Houston's first 9 points (two three-point baskets and a three-point play).

Brooks started in place of senior guard Rob Gray. Gray was suspended one game by the NCAA due to participating in a church recreation league game in March of this year. A friend of Gray's paid the $5 dollar participation fee for Gray which is an NCAA violation.

Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson provided details of what happened after the game.

"There’s an NCAA rule and this happened in March or April, Rob’s friends were playing at Second Baptist church in a basketball game," said Sampson. "One of his friends paid a $5 fee for the team. He played in the game and that was the violation, nothing more nothing less.

"Student officials. It was a church league game and there was a $5 entry fee. Someone paid it for him and that signaled the violation. When we got the ruling from the NCAA, it said he had to pay the $5 and had to sit out a game."

Despite Gray's absence, the Coogs scored 81 points and won by 28 which could be an indicator of the type of depth this year's Coogs' squad has this season.

Houston (1-0) led between five and eight points for nearly 12 minutes of the first half. With a 30-25 lead, Brooks knocked down back-to-back jumpers then teammate Corey Davis, Jr. converted a lay-up and a free throw for an 8-0 burst to stretch the lead to 13 (38-25) in less than one minute.

Houston's lead grew to 18 (48-30) after Brooks scored on a putback with 91 seconds remaining in the first half.

Houston shot a red-hot 69.2% (29 for 51) from the floor in the first half while limiting McNeese to 11 for 31 field goal shooting (35.5%).

The second half featured poor shooting by both teams. Houston made just 11 of 25 field goals (44.0%) while McNeese went ice cold making only 6 field goals out of 27 attempts (22.2%).

Junior Breaon Brady pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for the Coogs -- in 23 minutes.

Wes VanBeck scored 14 points (4 for 8 field goals, 3 for 7 threes) and added a sensational blocked shot (swatted the ball off the backboard) at the 10:40 mark of the second half. VanBeck's heart and hustle was on full display in the second half; and, the fans applauded their approval.

Corey Davis, Jr. added 12 points (5 for 7 field goals) and 5 assists in 26 minutes for the Coogs.

"I saw some good things and some things we need to work on," Sampson said in the post-game. "There’s going to be 100 other coaches saying the same thing I’m saying tonight. We are going to be a lot better a month or two from now, but it’s a good start. Our defense was really good, in the second half we held them to 19 points. I’d like our pace to be faster, the reason our defense was better against Angelo State was because we rebounded better. We weren’t getting in transition because of balls bouncing off of shoulders; but, we like to play fast and we win the game by 28 points without our best player."

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