Men's Basketball Sports

No. 3 Houston begins Big 12 era with emphatic win over West Virginia

Freshman forward Joseph Tugler slams it home in UH’s win over West Virginia. | Anh Le/The Cougar

You could tell that the No. 3 Cougars were amped up for their first-ever Big 12 game against West Virginia from the moment the game tipped off. Junior center Ja’Vier Francis set the tone with an emphatic dunk for UH’s first-ever points in the Big 12, injecting energy into the Fertitta Center crowd and getting the Houston bench on its feet.

“We knew it was the first Big 12 game so we knew were going to come out with energy,” said senior guard L.J. Cryer. “We see a lot of things that people say in the media about us not belonging in the Big 12 and so we were feeding off that.”

The Cougars did not let up on the way to an impressive 89-55 wire-to-wire beatdown of the Mountaineers.

The Cougars never trailed in the game thanks to suffocating defense and a hot start from senior guard L.J. Cryer who hit his first four shots. West Virginia started the game hitting just five of its first 20 shots, compared to 11 from Houston.

A pair of put-backs from Francis anchored a 13-3 Houston run that forced a Mountaineer timeout with the score at 36-15 late in the first half. Francis finished with 13 points to go along with five rebounds and two blocks.

“(Jamal Shead) made a great pass (to Ja’Vier) and he traveled a little bit. I got on him a little bit, but out of the timeout I ran a play for him,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “I went back to him because I believe in Ja’Vier. Ja’Vier is getting better, and he’s coming.”

Another 8-0 allowed Houston to close the first half with a 48-22 lead. Cryer scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, going 6-7 from the floor and 4-5 from three-point range in the half

In the second half, Houston grew to as much as 39 before closing things out. West Virginia shot a dismal 32.1% from the field for the game including 17.4% from three and was outrebounded 40-34 by UH.

“Our defense got us going,” Sampson said. “And we fed off of that the rest of the game.”

Jamal Shead dished out a season-high 11 assists — two more than WVU had as a team — and was Houston’s leading shot blocker with four swats. Nine UH players scored five or more points.

The Cougars stay undefeated at 14-0 in its first Big 12 in program history. Houston will travel for its first Big 12 road games against Iowa State and TCU on Jan. 9 and 13, respectively.

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