The No. 3 Houston Cougars men’s basketball team opened its 2022-23 season with a bang on Monday night.
Houston forward J’Wan Roberts got the first points of the year for the Cougars when he stole the ball from Northern Colorado and sprinted to the other end of the court for a fast-break slam. The Fertitta Center promptly erupted and there was nothing Northern Colorado could do to stop the avalanche that was Houston (1-0) as the Cougars won, 83-36.
The Cougars’ defense swarmed the Northern Colorado Bears from the get-go. Houston forced nine first-half turnovers and held Northern Colorado to just four-of-19 shooting from the field. Northern Colorado finished with 23 turnovers and shot 10-of-39 for the game.
For Houston, culture plays were in abundance. Minutes after checking into the game for the first time, forward Reggie Chaney and guard Ramon Walker were seen diving for a loose ball. A type of play that has become a standard for head coach Kelvin Sampson’s teams.
There was one possession that saw the Cougars garner four offensive rebounds, buying Houston five more chances at a basket, which was capped off by a 3-pointer from guard Marcus Sasser. Three different Houston players crashed the glass on that possession—Tramon Mark, Ja’Vier Francis, and freshman Jarace Walker, who had two.
Houston’s three highly touted freshmen in, Walker, Emanuel Sharp, and Terrance Arceneaux, all had their first baskets in their collegiate career come off second-chance points. Walker put back a missed shot by Roberts, and Arceneaux rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Jamal Shead. Sharp put back a missed free-throw by Walker.
Sasser was the best player on the court on Monday night. His outing consisted of 3-pointers, fast-break layups, and steals. Sasser had a nice step-back 3-pointer to send the Cougars into halftime with a 19-point lead. He ended the game with 21 points on seven-of-14 shooting from the field, four-of-8 on 3-pointers, four steals, and three assists.
Shead and Mark both started alongside Sasser on Monday. Mark hit two 3-pointers early. Shead got his points but excelled as a facilitator. He finished the contest with nine points, nine assists, and only one turnover.
Houston’s win marked Sampson’s 700th victory of his collegiate career and the 200th at Houston. After the game, Sampson was presented with a game ball by UH vice president for athletics Chris Pezman. He was also honored with a video of former players and coaches congratulating the head coach on his achievement.