Jarace Walker leads No. 3 UH in comeback victory over Cincinnati
In danger of losing back-to-back games at Fertitta Center for the first time ever, Jarace Walker took matters into his own hands Saturday afternoon at Fertitta Center.
Walker, who scored 21 points in UH’s first meeting against Cincinnati, used his 6-foot-8-inch frame to bully whoever the Bearcats threw at him, willing the Cougars back into the game with turnaround jumper after turnaround jumper.
“Honestly, I was just feeling good tonight,” Walker said. “The ball was feeling good off my fingertips.”
With just under four minutes remaining, Walker’s 10th basket of the night, a mid-range jumper, put the Cougars ahead 64-62, their first lead since the 17:36 mark in the first half.
Walker finished with a career-high 25 points while also pulling down seven rebounds.
Cincinnati tied it back up at 69 before it was Jamal Shead’s turn to come up big, beating the shot clock with a mid-range jumper from the left side to put UH up for good.
What was at one point a 13-point deficit ended in a 75-69 UH win as the Cougars improved to 20-2 overall and 8-1 in American Athletic Conference play.
“It showed that we got a lot of fight in us at the right moments,” Shead said. “We refused to lose and we stayed together.”
Wearing a suit with his patented blue button-down and red tie for the first time in over two years, it only took 55 seconds for Kelvin Sampson’s jacket to come off. Surprisingly, Sampson’s tie, which the UH head coach normally would have tossed to someone on the Cougars’ bench no more than a few minutes into the game, stayed on until 17:23 left in the second half.
Cincinnati hit its first four shots of the game, all from 3-point range, en rout to a 16-0 run. Bearcats senior guard Landers Nolley II hit three of them and went 4-for-4 from deep in the first half.
“They were hitting some amazing shots that first half,” Sampson said.
Mika Adams-Wood swished a half-court heave to beat the first-half buzzer to give Cincinnati a 43-36 lead heading into the locker room.
Down 60-49 midway through the second half, Shead, who finished with 13 points and five assists, provided the spark the Cougars needed with consecutive baskets.
“Jamal’s will to win equals his refusal to lose,” Sampson said.
Shead went to the bench with foul trouble a minute later. That’s when Walker took over and UH’s message offensively was clear.
“When (Walker) is going, just like when Marcus (Sasser) is going, get out of the way,” Shead said. “You give your hot hand the ball and get out of the way.”
After retaking the lead late, Shead and Sasser combined to go 4-of-4 from the free-throw line in the game’s closing seconds to put things away.
Redshirt junior J’Wan Roberts scored 14 points and pulled down six boards in the win.