Jamal Shead gets the message and Houston romps

KANSAS CITY – He tried to block a shot but landed on Lamar Washington’s foot, the fluorescent green and red shoes contrasting on the replay. He went down, grasping his right leg. Not that knee again! Every Cougar fan felt something inside them clutch. How many times can the man go down before it’s season-ending? How long can Houston walk this tightrope with injuries before falling off?

the daily #225 | 3/16/2024 | Archives

J’Wan Roberts is the very soul of this team. He’s not the best player but the keeper of the culture, the natural standard-bearer of Reggie Chaney’s legacy. He injured his right knee in the Jackson State game, had it drained several times, and gets shots in it regularly. He needed seven stitches in the webbing of his right hand in Norman, then needed them re-stitched a few days later. And now, in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament, an injury to his right shin.

An entire side of his body has been destroyed this year, but there he is. Keepin’ on keepin’ on. After treatment and returning from the half, he pled his case with Kellen Sampson and then to the big man himself. Kelvin Sampson looked unconvinced but let his senior leader go back out there. You can’t make a bruise worse, and after the Cougars stumbled into the half, perhaps he could help. Roberts was on the floor when the ball was put back in play.

A three-point halftime lead was at four before Jamal Shead had a pass stolen, and then fouled on a make on the other end. A bucket and one, and it could be just a one-point lead after the free throw. If there’s one sin that is unforgivable in this program, it’s turning one mistake into two.

Before the attempt, Kelvin yanked Shead.

Just 61 seconds had ticked off the clock. Shead walked from the far end to the Houston bench, within inches of Kelvin Sampson, who had his arms crossed and was steaming. They did not glance at each other. They did not speak.

With the lead at one, J’Wan Roberts came down the floor and backed down a defender, working as hard as he had all season to make a move. It wasn’t easy. He finally spun into the lane and went to his left. The ball went plop plop and finally trickled in. 13’s effort was there, just not the ability. He fought, but he wasn’t the same.

J’Wan Roberts gave it his all but could not do much on his right leg // © 2024 Big 12 Conference

Tech hit another shot and drew a foul. Before the game-tying free throw, Sampson made his way down the bench to yell at Shead. He pointed at the Big 12 Player of the Year, explaining to #1 that it was his fault. His poor effort in the first half, the mistakes at both ends that led to getting yanked, and even the foul on Sharp that tied the game. It was all Shead’s fault. Jamal had carried this team all season, and now he was being scapegoated? Shead looked incredulous, not believing that he was being blasted.

That was the point. Kelvin wanted his attention. He walked away, giving Shead a moment to contemplate it. The Cougars came down with the ball, tied at 37, and Roberts kept working, finding Emanuel Sharp for three. But Kelvin had seen enough. Ja’Vier Francis was called for a foul, and after a missed free throw, J’Wan Roberts exited the game. Jamal Shead replaced him. But surely, the coach wondered if his star had gotten the message.

The second free throw went in and it was 40-38. A real dogfight. There was 16:53 on the clock.

Then the show began.

Mylik Wilson hits. Then Shead makes two free throws. Wilson gets a steal, and Shead steps back and swishes. Shead rebounds a Tech miss and throws it up to Wilson for a dunk at the other end. Francis gets a block, Wilson draws a foul, and Shead dishes to L.J. Cryer for a three. Tech calls a timeout. 11-0 run.

Shead hits the step-back jumper // © 2024 Big 12 Conference

What did Tech fans see? Miss, foul, turnover, foul, miss, board, miss, blocked, board, turnover, foul, turnover, timeout.

Shead had understood the assignment.

By the time Tech finally scored, almost seven minutes had gone by, and their two-point deficit had turned to 19. Shead scored five in that run, dished three assists, and had a rebound.

Three and a half minutes later, the Red Raiders fouled Wilson. A few dejected Tech guys looked at the overhead scoreboard as they returned to the sideline for the under-8 timeout. Their second-half tie game had turned into a 27-point rout. They got rid of the pesky Roberts, and their reward was an epic beatdown.

What the hell had happened?

After the game, Jamal Shead indicated that J’Wan giving it a go in the second half inspired him. Maybe so. Maybe the finger-pointing was accompanied by Kelvin saying something about J’Wan giving the team everything while Jamal wasn’t. Maybe it triggered something in #1. Either way, Shead had eight points and six assists in his (almost) 15 minutes after he returned from his benching.

Kelvin and Jamal fist bump when the POY comes out // © 2024 Big 12 Conference

The Coogs had somehow squandered a 16-point first-half lead. Then, somehow, they found themselves up 27 before coasting to an 82-59 win, their 30th of the season. It was the 17th against a Big 12 team this year and what ended up being the 16th Quad 1 win. UH is 6-0 on neutral courts (five of those are Q1 wins, by the way) and has every claim to the overall #1 seed in Sunday’s bracket.

But before they get there, it’s round three with Iowa State. The Cougars are 40 minutes from winning a second Big 12 title, exactly 10 weeks from playing their first game in the league. J’Wan Roberts will be aiming for his record seventh conference title in 4.5 years at Houston. What were his thoughts after Friday’s game?

“I should be ready for tomorrow.”

Of course, he will.



Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is proud to be a corporate sponsor as the Official Personal Injury Law Firm for the University of Houston Athletics.

“As a University of Houston alum, I am honored that the University of Houston Athletics chose our firm to be their official and exclusive personal injury law firm,” says Stewart J. Guss, the firm’s founder.