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No. 7 Houston pauses basketball activity due to COVID issues

Houston announced on Tuesday that it has paused all team-related basketball activities because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing.

The No. 7 Cougars, who were scheduled to play home games against Sam Houston State (Wednesday) and Rice (Saturday), have announced that they will postpone both games.

When asked on Tuesday what the likelihood of making the games up would be, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said the games would likely wind up being canceled and that the Cougars' next two games, vs. Central Florida on Dec. 15 and at Alabama on Dec. 19, are also up in the air.

"I would say at this point, they'll be canceled, but we are making an effort to see who has some dates available," Sampson said. "We were on the phone calling schools this morning to see if this date works or that date works. We have Central Florida and Alabama and obviously, those games are in jeopardy, too."

Last week, Sampson and assistant coach Kellen Sampson both sat out Houston's win over South Carolina because of COVID-19 and contact tracing protocols. Assistant coach Quannas White served as the acting head coach in the 77-67 victory over the Gamecocks, which lifted the Cougars to a 4-0 record.

Kelvin Sampson said his team has been vigilant in adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols, wearing masks at practice, during team film sessions and just about everywhere except for players who are in game action.

"We can do everything right, and it still can happen," Sampson said. "I think we've done a great job ... Most teams have already gone through what we're going through right now. I think it's just an inevitability that it's going to happen."

Houston's current Associated Press poll ranking is their highest since the 1983-84 season, when the Cougars' "Phi Slama Jama" team finished No. 5 in the final poll.

Sampson said he's not certain how long the Cougars' pause will be and that further testing results will determine how long the team will be sidelined.

"These are challenging times, but the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans will always remain our main priority." Houston athletic director Chris Pezman said. "As we pause, I encourage all fans to remember to wear masks and socially distance at all times in your daily lives. Together, we will get through this."