The Houston Cougars beat Cincinnati Sunday afternoon in convincing fashion, 68-55. Marcus Sasser had his second 20-point game of the season, scoring 21 points on 8/16 shooting. The freshman also pulled down six rebounds, matching his career-high set last week.
The teams went back and forth for the first 15 minutes before Houston closed the first half with a 13-1 run. The Cougars dominated the boards in the first period, pulling down 14 offensive boards and 21 total. In comparison, Cincinnati had just 14 total. And despite 16 more shot attempts in the half, the Coogs had made just three more than the Bearcats.
Houston (22-7, 12-4) finished the game with 23 more shot attempts than Cincy.
“It’s really an easy numbers game,” Cincinnati coach John Brannen said. “When you shoot that many more shots than your opponent, you’re going to win the game.”
The Coogs came out of the break with the same intensity and pushed the lead to 12 points. UH went on a 20-5 run as Cincinnati hit just one shot in an 11-minute stretch that spanned the last five minutes of the first half and the first six in the second.
Besides Sasser, UH was led by Nate Hinton and Caleb Mills who finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively. The trio of Sasser, Hinton, and Mills was responsible for 16 points in the 20-5 run.
“Their studs took over. Sasser and Mills, they’re pros,” Brannen said, stating the obvious. “They took the game over. We didn’t have an answer for it.”
Chris Harris deserves special note: the big man has struggled at times in his Cougar career but is flourishing this season. On Sunday, he finished with 11 rebounds and four blocks in just 21 minutes. He was part of the defensive effort that shut down Cincy star Jarron Cumberland.
The Coogs frustrated Cumberland all afternoon and held him to just 11 points, eight of which came at the line. Kelvin Sampson decided to double team Cumberland as soon as he went into the paint and his defenders held Cumberland to just 1/7 shooting and four turnovers.
UH moved back into a tie for first place in the conference and clinched a bye in the first round of the AAC Tournament. Both Brannen (1st half) and Sampson (2nd) received technical fouls – Fertitta Center has produced four techs on coaches in the last two games.