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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Men's Basketball

No. 7 Cougars suffocate ULM in season opener

J’Wan Roberts dunks on a fast break in the second half of UH’s win over ULM. | Anh Le/The Cougar

The No. 7 Houston Cougars opened the 2023-24 basketball season against the University of Louisiana Monroe in dominant fashion, winning 84-31.

The 31 points allowed by UH is the third-fewest in school history and fewest since 1951.

“Defense is our star,” Sampson said. We work so hard on that, and that’s the hardest part of the game to teach. It requires so much selflessness.”

The Cougars started the first half with their physical brand of basketball imposing their will defensively, which allowed them to create buckets offensively. Junior forward Ja’vier Francis scored Houston’s first points of the season, bringing energy to a spirited crowd at the Fertitta Center. 

Seniors J’wan Roberts and Jamal Shead added points immediately after, an appropriate note with them two being the longest-tenured Cougars and leaders on the team. 

Graduate student and former Temple standout guard Damian Dunn jump-started the party on the offensive side, knocking in two early threes en route to scoring 17 points in the half. 

Emanuel Sharp also added 11 points in the first 20 minutes, giving the Cougars another nice jolt in scoring. 

Initially, UH started off playing erratic, having some self-imposed turnovers, but at the 15-minute mark, the Cougars started to find a rhythm.

The starting backcourt in Jamal Shead and LJ Cryer started off slow, but UH was able to find scoring with their extended depth in the starting lineup and off the bench.

Houston led ULM 38-14 at the half and never looked back.

Houston forced 15 steals and five blocks in the game. Jamal Shead led the team with four steals individually, and Mylik Wilson led the team with two blocks in the matchup. 

Redshirt sophomore Emanuel Sharp continued to score with ease, scoring a career-high 20 points, and shooting 50% from three.

“Getting in there doing my job and doing what the coaches ask me to do,” Sharp said.  

Sharp and Damian Dunn were leading scorers for the Cougars, combining for 38 of Houston’s 84 points. 

An encouraging sign for the Cougars was getting scoring on multiple levels from different players, totaling 35 points off the bench. 

The Cougars honored former big man Reggie Chaney, who passed away in August, with jersey patches bearing Chaney’s number, 32. A video tribute for Chaney was also played during halftime.

“Reggie is always going to be in our hearts, that’s why we have memories. That’s why we’re going to put No. 32 on our jerseys because that’s how much he means to us. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t mention Reggie.”

Houston’s next game will come on Saturday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

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