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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Kelvin Sampson: "NJIT is a good team."

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POSTED: December 28, 2018 -- 5:44 p.m. CST

The Houston Cougars (12-0) host the NJIT Highlanders (11-2) Saturday afternoon, 3 p.m., inside Fertitta Center. The Highlanders are 6-1 on the road this season; and, they have won 7 of their last 8 games.

This season, 5'9" Zach Cooks leads the Highlanders in scoring with a 19.2 points per game average. Cooks ranks second on the team with 5.4 rebounds per game. Abdul Lewis stands second with 12.0 points per game; but, Lewis leads NJIT with 8.4 rebounds per contest. Diandre Wilson ranks third on with 11.1 points per game while Shyquan Gibbs is tops with 2.8 assists per game.

Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson gave a scouting report of NJIT: "They're 11 and 2. They've won six road games. I think they're one of 2 programs in the nation to have done that. Well-coached. Coach (Brian) Kennedy has a great plan. They've got a guard (Zach Cooks) that's very similar to the Merrill () kid we faced from Utah State. Tremendous, tremendous player. He's only about 5'9", 5'10"; but, he can score at all three levels: he get's to the free throw line. He's a three-point shooter. You have to have a high pick up point with him in transition because he likes to shoot walk up threes.

"Their big man (Abdul Lewis) is a problem. They go to the free-throw line 30 times a game. They're averaging 30 free-throw attempts a game; so, that means they attack the basket off the dribble. Their five man (Abdul Lewis) is really good at it. He's 6'10" about 230. If he played the post, we'd could match up with him a little better; but, he catches the ball inside the three-point line. He's got a nice shot-fake game. He gets you off balance. He drives it. He can drive it and spin. He can drive it and shot fake; step through. He's got a myriad of ways to get to the free throw line and score.

"So, when you've got a post guy like him; and, then, a point guard like Cooks, you've got a good team. And, then, the other guys - they all play their roles well. This team just won at Fordham (53-50) who's an Atlantic 10 team."

Sampson continued, "11 and 2. They're getting votes in the Top 25 in the nation.

"We prepare the same for every team. If we lose a game, it's not because we overlook anybody. NJIT is a good team. The only people that's overlooking them is the people that don't know anything about them. We actually do scouting reports here; so, we've got a good idea of who they are; what they do; and, how good they are."

With a win against the Highlanders, the Coogs will extend the nation's longest active home winning streak to 26 consecutive games and set a school record with their 13th non-conference regular-season victory, breaking out of a tie with the 1954-55 team's 12 wins (only in seasons in which Houston competed as a conference member).

ESPN3 will broadcast the game.

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