The University of Houston Cougars closed out their regular season with a 73-51 win over the East Carolina University Pirates on Sunday.
The victory came on Senior Day, as the program said goodbye to several players and their home court, Hofheinz Pavilion.
Cougars guard Rob Gray, Jr., reached 1000 career points mid-way through the second half on the way to a 24 point night. He finishes the year as the American Athletic Conference’s scoring leader, averaging 20.3 points per game.
East Carolina trailed 33-32 at the half, and by as few as three points with 14:30 left in the second half. An alley-oop from Gray to Cougars center Bertrand Knali made the score 42-37 and started an 8-0 run for the Cougars.
Houston’s Damyean Dotson hit a three-pointer with just under 10 seconds left for the final field goal at Hofheinz. It closed a subpar shooting night for Dotson, who finished with two baskets on 16 attempts.
“My friends have been telling me not to tear up,” said Dotson’s mother, Lorie, about her son’s final home game. “I’m just trying to hold it in.”
The postgame closing ceremonies included a salute to the outgoing seniors as well as alumni from seven decades of men’s and women’s Cougars basketball teams. Hall of Famers Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon shared a give-and-go pass, with 54 year old Olajuwon dunking the ball.
Jeremiah Gallegos, a former UH student and current public address announcer at Hofheinz Pavilion, reminisced after the game.
“I started off doing women’s volleyball here my freshman year,” said Gallegos. “I was 19 years old.”
Gallegos handed the microphone off to Bill Worrell for the ceremony. Worrell, the long time Rockets play-by-play man, started his broadcasting career as a UH student.
“It’s inspiritational for me to see him do that,” said Gallegos. “It’s humbling as well.”
The Cougars and Pirates move on to the AAC Tournament in Hartford, Conn.
ECU will take on the Temple University Owls Thursday afternoon. The Cougars have a bye into the second round. They face the winner of Thursday’s late game between the University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida.