Jan 5, 2023 - Sports

Houston Cougars keep attracting sold-out crowds

UH men's basketball player Marcus Sasser pushes off a defender while dribbling the ball

Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the Rockets facing an awful season, men's basketball fans in the Bayou City have been crowding a different stadium.

Driving the news: The No. 2 University of Houston Cougars have seen sellout crowds for all 10 home games so far this season, plus the final three home games of the 2021-22 season.

  • Season tickets sold out for the third straight year, per Chron.

Why it matters: The team's 14-1 performance has fans already looking ahead to March Madness.

  • With skill and a little luck, they would enjoy a rare home-court advantage if they made it to the Final Four, which will be at NRG Stadium in early April.

By the numbers: Average attendance is upward of 7,300 fans per game. The official capacity for the Fertitta Center is listed as 7,035.

  • The highest attendance record at the Fertitta Center happened Dec. 10 against then-No. 8 Alabama when 7,718 fans turned out and saw the team's only loss of the season as the Crimson Tide won 71-65.

Between the lines: The Cougars' popularity is thanks, in part, to head coach Kelvin Sampson, who's led the team deep into March Madness in the last four years.

  • The Cougars made the Sweet 16 in 2019, the Final Four in 2021 and the Elite Eight last season.
  • Of note: The NCAA Tournament was canceled in 2020.

Flashback: 1982-84 saw the golden era of Houston Cougar basketball, with coach Guy Lewis leading the team to three Final Fours.

  • His frenetic style, with an emphasis on dunking, was dubbed Phi Slama Jama. Stars from that era, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde "the Glide" Drexler, later teamed up at the Rockets.

Zoom out: Three additional Texas teams are ranked by the Associated Press in the top 25: No. 6 Texas, No. 17 Texas Christian and No. 19 Baylor.

What's next: The Cougs match up at home Thursday night against the SMU Mustangs.

  • Expect another sellout crowd.

What we're watching: Houston could reclaim the AP's No. 1 rank after Purdue, which has held the No. 1 rank for four weeks, lost to Rutgers on Monday and faces a tough road game against No. 24 Ohio State on Thursday night.


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