Cougars Overcome Sluggish Start, Pull Away From Shockers


No. 3 Houston had to overcome another second-half deficit to beat Wichita State on the road, 70-61. Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead led the comeback, as both played the entire second half.

Again, UH stumbled out of the gates due to a mix of sluggish offense and several defensive lapses. The Shockers took an early 10-2 in front of an amped-up home crowd as the Cougars started 1/8 from the floor. To reverse it, Shead began attacking the basket to kickstart a 10-1 run.

But when Shead went out for a breather, the Cougar offense began to falter. Wichita State scored eight straight points to enter the under-8 timeout up 19-12. The Shockers had more energy than Houston, similar to the last few games against UCF and Cincinnati.

Shead and J’Wan Roberts, who came back in despite two early fouls, helped the Coogs work their way back to take the lead before halftime. Sampson was likely not looking to play his starting backcourt trio for 16, 17, and 18 minutes in the first half, but getting the team back on track was necessary.

The Shockers were held to just one field goal and committed three turnovers in the final four and a half minutes of the half, while UH made seven of its last nine field goals to inch ahead, 30-29, at the half.

Sasser got going early after the break, but the Shockers went on a 10-0 run to take a 44-37 lead. Wichita’s Jaykwon Walton continued the momentum from his 12-point first half, hitting a three and drawing Roberts’ critical fourth foul on a layup. In the first nine minutes of the half, UH committed six shooting fouls to put Wichita State in the bonus.

In that span, the Shockers dominated the Cougars on the boards, too, in a way that hasn’t happened all season. The Shockers grabbed 15 rebounds to Houston’s three, but UH trailed by just three points.

After a dreadful start offensively, Jarace Walker found his shot, hitting two big threes to spark an 11-1 run. Walker’s tough play late, a point of emphasis with Kelvin Sampson lately, put the Cougars up for good with under three minutes to play. Houston began rebounding WSU’s misses during the run and forced the Shockers into tough shots. Before garbage time, Wichita State made just one field goal in the final 8:13.

All five Cougar starters finished in double digits, scoring 65 of the team’s 70 points. Walker and Sasser each had 15, while Shead continued to his stretch of solid play. The point guard scored 13 points with seven assists against just one turnover.

UH improved to 21-2 and 9-1 in conference play, and will travel home before flying to Philadelphia for a rematch against Temple, their lone conference loss.

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