J’Wan Roberts shattered his 3-day-old career-high in points in UH’s 89-59 win over Tulane. After setting a new career-high of 20 points against Memphis three days ago, his effort Wednesday helped #1 Houston clinch the American Athletic title.
Roberts finished the game with 26 points on near-perfect 9/10 shooting from the floor and 8-9 from the foul line.
“J’Wan has really, really improved,” said Kelvin Sampson. “J’Wan is a byproduct of our player development system. Kellen (Sampson) deserves a lot of credit for that position.”
It is the fourth time in five years that the Cougars have claimed the conference title.
“Just the consistency of it is what I’m most proud of,” Sampson said. “We’ve been winning around here for a long time.”
Despite a sloppy offensive start, Houston led 17-12 through the first eight minutes, largely thanks to a 10-3 rebounding advantage. Coming out of the under-8 timeout is when the Cougars made their run. After a putback by J’Wan Roberts, Jamal Shead intercepted a pass and proceeded to lay it in.
Seconds later, Jarace Walker stuffed Kevin Cross’ dunk attempt. Then, on the ensuing fastbreak, Tramon Mark buried a corner three to cap a 51-second, seven-point surge that extended the lead to 15 and got the record-breaking Fertitta Center crowd on its feet.
The Cougars would finish the half up 40-26, grabbing nine steals while holding Tulane to just eight buckets.
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Houston kept its foot on the gas after the break and pushed the lead to 31 at one point thanks to 14 second-half points from Roberts on 4/4 shooting and 6/6 at the line.
UH ended the game with 16 steals, the most all season.
“Coach (Sampson) is doing a great job of just getting us prepared for their sets,” said Marcus Sasser, who added 22 points of his own along with four steals,” “so we kind of know what’s going to happen before it happens. And just having trust in our teammates.”
Sampson pointed out Sasser’s ability to affect the game on both sides of the court, which is why he should be the frontrunner for the AAC Player of the Year award.
“To me, the player of the year in this league is Marcus,” Sampson said. “He impacts winning in so many ways. That’s why I think the player of the year should be the best two-way player.”
The Cougars improved to 26-2 and won their eighth consecutive game. Houston will win the conference title outright with a win at East Carolina on Saturday or a Memphis loss.
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