Men's Basketball Sports

No. 1 Cougars clinch sole possession of Big 12 title, dominate Kansas 76-46

UH clinched the Big 12 regular season title in style with an impressive win over Kansas on Senior Day. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Since the start of Big 12 play in January, the Cougars have been breaking down the end of practice by repeating the phrase “Conference Champs.” After Wednesday’s win against UCF, Houston could lay claim to a share of that title in its first year in the league.

But after Saturday’s 76-46 Senior Day drubbing of No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks, the No. 1 Cougars are now the only team in the Big 12 able to say those words.

“We’re the University of Houston. We’re a damn good basketball program,” said head coach Kelvin Sampson. “We should never ever think that we should take a backseat to anybody. I’m proud of our program.”

After an emphatic first half that saw UH lead by as much as 25, the Cougars opened up the second half with an 11-1 run to go up 53-24, led by two dunks and a steal from junior center Ja’Vier Francis, sending the record 7,933 strong Fertitta Center into a deafening frenzy and setting up the eventual win.

After the clock hit zero, the nets were cut, and history was made.

“It’s been a long process since June,” said redshirt sophomore guard Emanuel Sharp. “We’ve been through a lot and we stayed connected through it all.”

UH finished the regular season 28-3 and 15-3 in Big 12 play. The Cougars also finish the season with a perfect 17-0 record at home. It is also the sixth straight year the Cougars have won a conference title.

Before the game, seniors Ryan Elvin, Damian Dunn, Mylik Wilson, L.J. Cryer, J’Wan Roberts and Jamal Shead were honored before the game. Shead finished with a game-high 13 points to go with eight assists and six rebounds and received a standing ovation as he exited the game.

“It’s awesome — all the love that this university has given to me,” Shead said. “It’s awesome that I could give some back.”

After the game, players and coaches alike spent time remembering their late former teammate whose number is patched on their jerseys: Reggie Chaney.

“This is my first championship without Reggie Chaney,” Shead said. “This year has been rough knowing what he went through. That patch means a lot. It’s good to win it for him.”

Stifling defense forced Kansas to begin the game 1-for-11 from the floor and committed five turnovers while another pair of rim-rattling dunks by Francis got the home crowd rocking as UH took an early lead at the under-16 timeout. After threes from guards Cryer and Emanuel Sharp forced Jayhawk timeouts after each, UH led 19-4 with 11:28 to go in the half. Cryer finished with 11 points to go with a block and a steal.

The Cougars’ onslaught didn’t stop there as they thoroughly dominated the Jayhawks in the first half and led by as much as 25 points before entering halftime up 40-21. Six different Cougars made two or more field goals in the first half, with Shead dishing out six assists. Kansas committed 10 turnovers in the half.

Roberts scored 10 points to go with a team-high eight rebounds as well as two blocks, while Dunn recorded 12 points with six boards.

UH will enjoy a two-game for the Big 12 Tournament and will begin play on March 14.

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