There are times when Houston coach Kelvin Sampson is prone to consider the big picture when piecing together the plan for the season.
His No. 6 Cougars want to make sure they’re conditioned at the end of the season to turn wintertime promise into something special in the spring.
So an in-season tournament is a barometer but is nowhere near the end-all. It is, after all, November.
The Cougars (3-0) will meet Towson (2-1) on Thursday evening in the opening round of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. Both teams will play two additional games in the tournament.
The Houston-Towson winner will meet the winner of the opening-day nightcap between Utah and Wake Forest. The losing teams will meet in a consolation round.
Houston has cruised through three home games to open the season. Monday night’s 79-48 handling of Stetson was the most recent example of the Cougars’ ability to overmatch opponents.
But nothing goes entirely to plan. Houston’s J’Wan Roberts played just eight minutes against Stetson after suffering a knee injury.
Temple transfer Damian Dunn, meanwhile, has given the Cougars another dimension in terms of perimeter offense.
The extra sources of production should come in handy overall, not to mention in an in-season tournament when games come in rapid order.
With that in mind, the Cougars are monitoring the workload on standout Jamal Shead.
“That was the plan,” Sampson said. “That was one of the things when we met in the summer — was how do we get Jamal’s minutes down so he can be more effective in the second half (of the season)?”
Towson has resources on its roster, even if the Tigers’ depth isn’t as prominent.
Yet a tournament setting with a Top 10 foe on the bracket is a good way to learn more.
“We’re going to find out a little bit more about tough games in the next week,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said. “These are all like fact-finding missions. We have great opportunities ahead for us, and we’re going to try to capitalize on those. But we’d better keep getting better.”
Towson opened the season by losing at now-ranked Colorado before a road victory at Coppin State and a home win vs. Robert Morris.
“Our guys showed some toughness and togetherness,” Skerry said. “I’m still trying to figure out who, when, what, where and why. I do like how we guard and rebound, and I think that will allow us to hang in there most nights.”
Houston and Towson will embark on a stretch of three games across four days. The Tigers could be well-suited for this, at least on the surface.
“Our depth is going to be a strength of the group,” Skerry said.
The Tigers have some firepower with freshman Tyler Tejada averaging 13 points per game. That landed him the Rookie of the Week honor for the Coastal Athletic Association.
“Just following your training and just staying aggressive,” Tejada said.
–Field Level Media
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