The No.1 Houston Cougars cut down the nets in Fertitta Center for the third straight year, sending off the senior class with an 83-66 win over Wichita State. Jamal Shead and Marcus Sasser led the way, combining for 33 points in the second half. Shead finished with a career-high of 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting.
“Senior night is always a tricky deal,” Kelvin Sampson said on the floor after the game. “You’re fighting the emotions…They love each other.”
Sasser scored 15 in the second half before being taken out of his final home game, embracing his head coach as fans shouted his name in unison. With the win, Sasser tied Fabian White Jr. as the winningest player in Fertitta Center history with 49 wins.
Sasser was presented with two game balls during the postgame celebration: one for the all-time Fertitta Center wins record and another for tying the school record for career three-pointers made with 261 (Robert “Fluff” McKiver).
“This is the reason I came back (for my senior year),” Sasser said after the game while wearing an AAC regular-season championship t-shirt. “These times you’re going to always remember.”
“Marcus didn’t have to come back,” Sampson said. “He and I had some heart-to-heart talks, but not one time did he ask me, ‘what should I do?'”
The Cougars started the game out of sorts offensively, while the Shockers started 10/12 from the floor. Wichita State led by as much as eight early, but Houston battled back and went up 33-31 at the half on a last-second put-back. Wichita State’s backcourt of Craig Porter Jr. and Jaron Pierre Jr. combined for 23 of the Shockers’ 31 first-half points.
Sampson chalked up the slow start to the team’s mentality heading in.
“The guys didn’t have the right mindset to start the game,” Sampson said. “Our guys came out here for a memorial service. Fellas, we got a game!”
The Cougars came out of the break on a mission. Houston forced Porter Jr. into a fourth foul, then took advantage of his absence. Finally, UH found its groove on offense, stretching the lead to as many as 12.
Jamal Shead’s career-high in shot attempts is 18, coming against Wichita State a year ago. He had 17 on Thursday night. He tied his career-high in field goals made with 10
The Shockers pulled back to within four, but Sasser and Shead took control. Up 66-58, Houston outscored the Wheatshockers 17-8 the rest of the way.
Reggie Chaney and Darius Bowser each started on senior night, taking the place of J’Wan Roberts and Jarace Walker.
“These guys have earned everything they’ve got, and I’m very, very proud of them,” Sampson said.
Houston is now 28-2 (16-1 AAC) and will travel to Memphis early Saturday for a Sunday morning tip-off against the Tigers.
Houston now leads the all-time series with Wichita State 19-18.
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