No. 2 Houston Cougars survive hard-fought battle with Kent State

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13639034c) Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Kent State, in Houston Kent State Basketball, Houston, United States – 26 Nov 2022

No. 2 Houston Cougars survive hard-fought battle with Kent State

The No. 2 Houston Cougars men’s basketball team was put to the test by Kent State on Saturday afternoon at Fertitta Center.

Kent State handed Houston its first double-digit deficit of the season, giving the Cougars everything they could handle and more during this game. Houston had to battle through turnovers, a bad-shooting game, and a scrappy Golden Flashes team to earn its sixth win of the year, 49-44.

The game came down to the final seconds, despite the Cougars building a nine-point cushion in the second half. Kent State rallied and took a 44-43 lead with only 65 seconds left in the game. It was a pair of floaters by guard Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead, and clutch free throws by Sasser, that helped carry Houston to the finish line.

Houston (6-0) struggled to take care of the ball early, committing seven turnovers in the first six minutes of action and 12 turnovers in the first half. The Cougars also struggled to put the ball in the basket, going 0-of-8 on 3’s in the first half and just 8-of-26 from the field at the break.

Kent State took the fight to Houston early. The Golden Flashes swarmed Houston’s players on defense and were quick to loose balls and running out in transition. The Cougars saw themselves fall behind 13-3 early, and they had to slowly claw their way back into the game.

By the time the first half ended, Houston had managed to take the lead, but Kent State was never too far behind. The Cougars led 24-22 at the start of the second half, but the Golden Flashes opened the second period with a 6-0 run that made head coach Kelvin Sampson quickly call a timeout less than two minutes into the half.

The Golden Flashes extended their lead to six before guard Tramon Mark broke the lid on the basket for Houston with a step-back 3-pointer. At the time, it was UH’s first made shot from long distance of the afternoon. The Cougars were 0-of-11 before Mark’s make. After a defensive stop, guard Marcus Sasser followed it up with a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game.

Houston kept the defensive stops coming, which led to points on offense. A slam dunk by forward Reggie Chaney gave the Cougars the lead again. Chaney then got a steal on the other end, leading to a layup for Sasser as UH went up by four.

The Cougars held the Golden Flashes scoreless for 7:13 in the second half during a 15-0 run. Similarly, Houston had held Kent State without a field goal for the final 8:30 of the first half.

However, Houston struggled to close out the hard-fighting Kent State team. The Golden Flashes countered the Cougars’ 15-0 run with an 8-0 run of their own that cut UH’s lead to just one. A 3-pointer by Kent State guard Malique Jacobs put Kent State up by one before Sasser and Shead’s shots helped send Houston home with a victory.

Freshman forward Jarace Walker had a key block on Kent State guard Sincere Carry to preserve Houston’s one-point lead with 48 seconds left in the game.

No. 2 Houston returns to action on Tuesday night inside the Fertitta Center against Norfolk State. The next Associated Press and USA Today Coaches Poll will be released on Monday.

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