The top-ranked Houston Cougars clinched the outright American Athletic Conference championship Saturday night. They suffocated the East Carolina Pirates in a 76-57 victory.
GoCoogs.com received special footage from inside the Cougar locker room celebrating the victory.
“Happy for our kids to be rewarded with winning a conference championship,” Kelvin Sampson said after the game. “That’s not easy to do.”
Houston had a scare early in the game when Marcus Sasser went down in severe pain, but it was later revealed to be a rolled ankle. Sasser went to the locker room to get retaped and checked back in after the under-12 timeout with the Cougars up 17-8.
The Cougars put a lid on ECU’s rim in the first half, as the Pirates went the final 11 minutes without a field goal. The Pirates only made three in the half, none of those in the paint, thanks to the interior defense of J’Wan Roberts. He had four early blocks.
Houston led at the half, 36-19. Thanks to 10 UH fouls, 11 of ECU’s 19 points came off free throws.
The Cougars largely held serve in the second half, with Roberts and Tramon Mark each scoring double digits in half. Towards the end of the game, Houston began playing a zone defense, likely as a mini-dress rehearsal for the postseason. After the game, Sampson did not put a lot of emphasis on how the experiment went.
“Our kids know how to win,” Kelvin said. “We’ve figured out how to play our system.”
After returning to the game, Sasser passed Hakeem Olajuwon as UH’s 20th all-time leading scorer and finished with 22 points. Kelvin Sampson called Tramon Mark the team’s best player in the game, as Mark finished with 20 points. Roberts added 17 points and gobbled up 12 rebounds. He’s scored 63 points and had 31 rebounds in three games over the last seven days.
The Cougars cruised to their 15th conference win and improved to 27-2 overall, and will cut down the nets on senior night on Thursday against Wichita State.
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