With 16:42 left in Sunday’s game at Hofhienz Pavillion against Rutgers, University of Houston coach James Dickey went to his bench, sort of. After seeing his team’s nine point lead cut to one in less than three minutes, he turned to L.J. Rose and Danuel House. Rutgers added another bucket to take the lead, but then the Cougars busted off a 22-3 run on their way to a 77-55 win.
After missing multiple games due to injury, House underwent knee surgery and missed nine games, while Rose sat out five with an injured foot, the two made their returns for the Cougars during Thursday night’s 39-point drubbing at Louisville. Both players came off the bench, but neither made a shot from the field. House logged 19 minutes, Rose 16. On Sunday, not only were they more effective, they changed the game.
Rose played 21 minutes and scored nine points while dishing out eight assists, turning the ball over once. House logged 27 minutes, including 16 straight in the second half, adding 14 points and six boards.
“Probably going into this game, if you had asked me I would have said they won’t end up playing 20 minutes, but it’s just the way the game went, Dickey said. “Those two guys really contributed to us being successful on both ends of the floor in both halves.”
Before the injuries both players started every game they had played this season and were scoring in double figures. The Cougars played well without them, starting 2-1 in American Athletic Conference play by beating Connecticut and South Florida. The loss in that stretch was a 61-60 defeat to Cincinnati. That made the challenge for Dickey figuring out how to work them back in the lineup.
“We were playing well and got off to a good start, but when you have starters out, you have to blend those guys back in there,” he said. “It’s a credit to them because of their approach to the game. They’re ready to contribute when they go in the game and not thinking that they have to go in there and score right away but ‘can I do it with defense, can I do it with a rebound?’”
Getting House and Rose healthy adds to a young, talented Houston roster that is led by junior forward TaShawn Thomas who is averaging close to 17 points and nine rebounds a game. He was held in check Sunday with 12 points and four rebounds but redshirt freshman Danrad Knowles made his first start and led the Cougars with 16 points on eight shots, eight rebounds and four blocks
“He is going to be a special player,” Dickey said of Knowles. “He’s got to get more physical and I thought he did during the second half.“
Houston made half it’s shots from the field and assisted on 21 of 29 made baskets. They held Rutgers to 31 percent shooting, and the Scarlett Knights had just five assists and 10 turnovers. The win gets the Cougars to 3-2 in AAC play with a matchup in Memphis looming on Thursday night.
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