No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball dominates North Florida as Jamal Shead, Jarace Walker thrive

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13652827k) Houston guard Jamal Shead drives around North Florida guard Jose Placer (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Houston North Florida Basketball, Houston, United States – 06 Dec 2022

No. 1 Houston Cougars basketball dominates North Florida as Jamal Shead, Jarace Walker thrive

The No. 1 Houston Cougars men’s basketball team clipped North Florida behind a strong defensive night inside the Fertitta Center on Tuesday night. UH routed the Ospreys 76-42.

Despite not having guard Marcus Sasser for most of the game, the Cougars (9-0) were able to dominate the Ospreys at the end of the first half with a 14-0 run that basically put the game out of reach. Houston held North Florida scoreless for the final 8:27 of the half.

Sasser exited the game with 12:17 left in the first half after suffering a laceration above his left eye. The lesion required the guard to get stitches, the school announced. He did not return to the game. He ended the outing with 12 points.

In the meantime, Houston imposed its will on defense. From top to bottom, North Florida (2-6) players struggled from the field, which has been the norm for UH’s opponents this season. The Ospreys finished the night shooting 14-of-44 from the field. They turned the ball over 20 times and were outrebounded 42 to 26.

Houston’s defense stood out with plays like forward Jarace Walker skying up and tipping a pass from North Florida forward Carter Hendricksen, which led to a steal for guard Jamal Shead. He then got the ball back into the hands of Walker for a fast-break slam. Walker ended the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of his young collegiate career.

On the next defensive play, Shead again found himself in the mix for a loose ball and forced the tie-up that led to a jump ball that bought Houston an extra possession.

On offense, Houston got what it wanted against North Florida’s defense. The Cougars were patient when the Ospreys played zone, and orchestrating all of it was Shead. He dished out passes left and right like it was a fire sale for the Cougars.

He set up Sasser on his 3-pointers in the first half. He pushed the pace in transition setting up guard Tramon Mark and Walker for fast-break points. He executed an alley-oop pass to Ja’Vier Francis for a slam. Shead passed it to J’Wan Roberts in the post and Emanuel Sharp for a 3-pointer.

If there was a Houston on your chest, there was a chance Shead would find you in a position to score. He ended the game scoreless while getting 10 assists, four steals, four rebounds and one block and zero turnovers.

Guard Ramon Walker returned to action after missing three games due to an illness. His impact was felt on the floor when both he and forward Reggie Chaney dove on the floor with 11:01 left in the game. Houston led 59-28. Another example of a play that is symbolic of the team’s culture.

Up next for Houston is a date with No. 8 Alabama on Saturday at 2 p.m. inside the Fertitta Center. The game will air on ABC, and it will be the first time two top 10 teams meet inside the young arena.

All Houston fans that attend the game will receive a free red or white T-shirt as the university looks to “stripe out” the Fertitta Center for the heavily anticipated matchup.

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