In a compelling display of college basketball prowess at the Toyota Center, the Texas Longhorns and Houston Cougars emerged victorious in The Halal Guys Showcase, setting the stage for potential success in the upcoming men’s NCAA tournament.
The Longhorns and Cougars, both narrowly missing a chance at the Final Four earlier this year, showcased their dominance as favored teams on Saturday. Texas delivered an impressive first-half performance, accumulating 56 points and securing a 95-86 win against the LSU Tigers. Meanwhile, Houston faced a late surge from Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV but managed to clinch a narrow 70-66 victory.
For Houston, the path to victory once again relied on their stifling defense, a trademark of Kelvin Sampson’s squad. Boasting an 11-0 record in the 2023-24 season, the Cougars showcased the formula that has made them a force in college basketball—a tenacious defense, efficient offense, and a blend of frontcourt strength and backcourt scoring prowess. Guard Emanuel Sharp emphasized the significance of playing in high-stakes games like The Halal Guys Showcase.
“We want to play in big games like this,” Sharp stated.
The Cougars, eyeing their second Final Four appearance in the last four seasons, showcased their defensive prowess by limiting Texas A&M to 23 first-half points and forcing eight turnovers. Key contributors LJ Cryer and Emanuel Sharp demonstrated their scoring capabilities, with Cryer sinking four threes in a 17-point effort, while Sharp contributed 19 points, including two crucial three-pointers.
Houston’s defensive efficiency, ranked as the best in college basketball by KenPom metrics, bodes well for their tournament prospects. With a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament bracket likely, the Cougars appear to be genuine Final Four contenders.
On the other hand, Texas faces a more uncertain future. Missing their top three scorers from last year’s Elite Eight team, the Longhorns, led by veteran guard Max Abmas, are still in the process of fine-tuning their closing lineup and rotation, according to coach Rodney Terry. However, the Longhorns displayed their potential as a Final Four contender, particularly with the return of versatile scorer Dylan Disu, who made his season debut on Saturday.
While Houston seems to be a bonafide Final Four contender, Texas stands on the fringe, with their success in March Madness hinging on finding the right formula. Both teams navigated the challenges presented at the professional environment of the Toyota Center, securing victories that could be crucial in sustaining their seasons as they look ahead to the intensity of March Madness.