Houston Cougars men’s basketball freshman forward Jarace Walker attacks the basket against Northern Colorado at Fertitta Center. (Courtesy Sean Thomas)
The third-ranked Houston Cougars men’s basketball team continued its strong start to the season with a stellar performance in Annapolis against Saint Joseph’s in the Veterans Classic 81-55.
Houston (2-0) saw its lead quickly balloon up to 34-11 behind its robust defensive performance. The Cougars suffocated the Hawks early with their swarming defense. From trapping Saint Joseph’s guards on screens to players in the post or in the corners, it seemed like Houston was playing with seven men on the floor at times.
The Cougars hurt the Hawks in transition throughout the night. Houston ended the game with 18 fast-break points, 16 of which came in the first half. Arguably the highlight of the night came in transition when forward J’Wan Roberts found center Reggie Chaney on a fast break, which led to a slam dunk over Saint Joseph’s forward Kacper Klaczek.
Freshman Jarace Walker put his bad shooting game in the season opener in the rearview mirror on Friday evening. Walker hit his first shot of the night, and his good shooting continued. He led all scorers with 23 points. He also added eight rebounds.
Roberts had a strong game as well. He finished the contest with 19 points, a career-high, and 12 rebounds, and he had a couple of strong plays offensively throughout the outing. Guard Jamal Shead continued his strong play as a facilitator with eight assists and only one turnover.
Not everything went smoothly for Houston in the game. Saint Joseph’s posed a much tougher matchup in the second half, particularly on defense.
Saint Joseph’s limited the fast-break opportunities Houston had. The Hawks forced the Cougars to commit more turnovers with a variety of defenses, from full-court pressure to zone defense and even half-court pressure.
The Hawks cut it to 14 at one point, the closest they got in the second half, but Roberts stopped the bleeding by rebounding a missed three-pointer from Shead and going up through contact for an and-one layup that pushed the lead back to 17.
There was a stoppage in play multiple times in the game, particularly around the 12-minute mark in the second half, due to condensation on the court.
Several players on the team found themselves diving on the floor after loose balls throughout the game, but for some reason, the floor held onto the moisture, and it took multiple personnel to help wiping the court off after players found themselves on the floor.
At one point, the game officials came close to calling the game off, head coach Kelvin Sampson told the CBS Sports Broadcast after the game, but both coaches opted to continue the game because they did not feel the conditions warranted a decision to stop the game.
Houston hosts Oral Roberts on Monday next at Fertitta Center.