No. 5 Houston Cougars basketball shines in 69-61 victory against No. 2 Virginia

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Erin Edgeerton/AP/Shutterstock (13671936a) Houston guard Marcus Sasser (0) dribbles the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va Houston Virginia Basketball, Charlottesville, United States – 17 Dec 2022

No. 5 Houston Cougars basketball shines in 69-61 victory against No. 2 Virginia

The Houston Cougars basketball team answered the call in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday afternoon. UH defeated Virginia 69-61.

Unlike a week ago when No. 5 Houston (11-1) struggled to make shots down the stretch to put away Alabama, the Cougars were able to execute and make enough baskets to close the door on the No. 2 Cavaliers.

Virginia (8-1) rallied late to cut Houston’s lead to just six points with under four minutes in the second half, but a layup by junior guard Jamal Shead, a 3-pointer from junior guard Tramon Mark, a jumper from freshman forward Jarace Walker and late made free throws helped carry UH to the finish line.

After a shaky offensive start that saw Houston miss a lot of contested jumpers and Virginia jump out to 9-0 and 15-7 leads, the Cougars responded by attacking the Cavaliers in the paint, which allowed UH to get more open shots, which it capitalized on.

Whether it was getting the ball into the paint through passes to the big men off screens or beating Virginia defenders on the dribble, Houston was able to hurt the Cavaliers by dishing it out throughout the outing.

Forward J’Wan Roberts got a layup courtesy of a pass by Walker. Guard Marcus Sasser knocked down his first 3-pointer on a drive and kick by Mark.

Sasser found his shooting stroke after hitting his first long-range basket. He went on to hit two more 3-pointers before the break.

Walker got rolling as well, especially to begin the second half. He scored Houston’s first points of the period by converting an and-one layup and hitting the free throw. He later hit a 3-pointer to put UH up by eight.

A Sasser layup in transition gave Houston its first double-digit lead of the afternoon, and the Cougars’ 11-point lead was the largest deficit the Cavaliers faced all season long.

The longer the game went, the more it seemed like Houston was able to impose its will on Virginia. Toward the middle of the second half, Shead attempted to drive past Cavaliers guard Kihei Clark.

The ball ricocheted off Shead’s hands, and it looked like it was about to go out of bounds, but the Manor native hustled to save it into the hands of Mark, who immediately found center Reggie Chaney for an impressive slam dunk.

Houston out-rebounded Virginia 30-to-26 for the game. The Cougars just edged out the Cavaliers 7-to-6 in offensive rebounds.

However, plays like when Mark bought a Houston possession with 4:55 left in the game by securing an offensive board that led to a second-chance 3-pointer by Walker helped the Cougars get past the Cavaliers.

Walker had a bit of an injury scare toward the middle of the second half when Virginia senior guard Armaan Franklin landed on his leg. Walker was able to return to the outing just a few minutes later and finished the game.

Virginia shot 20-of-48 from the field and 6-of-22 on 3-pointers. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 10 times, which turned into nine points for the Cougars.

Sasser finished with 13 points and three assists in Houston’s win. Walker added 17 points and seven rebounds. Roberts had 10 points and six rebounds. Mark had 13 points and six rebounds.

The Houston Cougars basketball team returns to action on Wednesday night inside the Fertitta Center when it hosts McNeese at 7 p.m. The game will stream on ESPN+, and the radio call can be heard on KPRC 950 AM.

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