The #1 Houston Cougars clamped down on the North Florida Ospreys in a 76-42 thumping Tuesday night. UH held UNF to 14/44 shooting (31.8%) in the game.
After hurting his shoulder late in the win over Saint Mary’s on Saturday, Marcus Sasser asserted himself early in the game. He scored 12 points in the first eight minutes, becoming the 50th player in UH history to score 1,000 points. But a hard fall on the defensive end caused a laceration above his left eye, forcing him to the locker room. He never returned to the sideline and required five stitches.
Kelvin Sampson called it a “nasty” cut.
The injury forced some different lineups for the Coogs, and Jarace Walker and Ja’Vier Francis both got going early on. Walker made his first three shots and had a block while Francis threw down two dunks, the latter of which got the home crowd into it. With a 10-point lead, Houston went on a 14-0 run to close the half to head to the locker room up 42-18. Jamal Shead assisted on UH’s final four baskets of the half to go along with two steals and a block.
After a trey to start the second half, the Ospreys were held scoreless for another five minutes. UH stretched the lead to 28 before a pair of North Florida free throws ended their drought. Sampson used the opportunity to give bench players more minutes, and Emanuel Sharp took advantage. He hit his third three-pointer of the game to make it 59-28 at the under-12 timeout.
Ryan Elvin once again provided late-game excitement for the home crowd. Elvin hit a deep three, then drove to the hole for a layup, both to massive cheers. The Cougar bench was euphoric for each.
For the game, Jarace Walker had his first career double-double (12 points, ten rebounds), while Ja’Vier Francis continued to impress off the bench (14 points, four boards, four blocks). Jamal Shead had ten assists.
The 9-0 Cougars now turn their attention to #8 Alabama. The 2 p.m. game on Saturday will be the first top-10 matchup in Fertitta Center history and will be UH’s first time hosting a top-10 matchup since New Mexico in 1966 (Delmar Field House). Remarkably, it never happened at Hofheinz.