LYNCHBURG, Va. — Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said his team had not played with Rob Gray before Friday and the start of the Paradise Jam.
It took Gray just three games to make his presence known as a clutch player the Cougars can count on.
Gray scored six of his 23 points during a late 8-0 run for Houston that broke a tie and the Cougars beat Wake Forest 78-73 in the fifth-place game of the Paradise Jam on Sunday.
“Friday, believe it or not, that was our team’s first game with Rob,” Sampson said. “They hadn’t seen Rob. We just have to keep adjusting. The more games we play, the better we’re going to get.”
Gray was intent on making a good impression, and did, especially in a tight game near the end.
“I’m trying to show people that I’m more than just a scorer,” the redshirt senior and junior college transfer said. “I’m an efficient basketball player that knows how to make the right plays defensively and offensively. I just try to be as aggressive as possible, while remaining as smart a player as possible.”
Wes Vanbeck added 19 points and Devin Davis 15 for Houston (3-1). Gray’s layup broke the 68-all tie, Davis followed a miss by Wake Forest with two free throws and Gray added a 3-pointer and a free throw, giving the Cougars a 76-68 lead with 1:51 to play.
The Demon Deacons (1-4) got a 3-pointer from Mitchell Wilbekin and a dunk from Doral More to get within three, but Gray scored after an offensive rebound with 15 seconds left to rebuild the lead to five and the Demon Deacons missed a pair of 3-point tries at the finish.
For the second time in three games, Wake Forest coach Danny Manning lamented his team’s attention to details in a losing effort.
“It was not the three days that I envisioned coming down here,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it’s not what everyone else envisioned either. We just have to get better. We have to come in with our hard hat and our lunch pail and continue to work on ourselves to get better each time we step on the court — practice or game.”
Bryant Crawford led Wake Forest with 17 points and Wilbekin and Keyshawn Woods each had 15.