Men's Basketball Sports

Cougars open NCAA tourney with dominant win over Longwood

The Houston Cougars advanced to the NCAA tournament Round of 32 with a dominant win over the Longwood Lancers on Friday night. | Anh Le/The Cougar

In a first weekend full of madness and surprises across the NCAA men’s tournament, the Houston Cougars defended their No. 1 seed status in commanding fashion against the Longwood Lancers to advance ahead to the Round of 32.

UH dominated the scoresheet early. The Cougars scored the game’s first ten points largely on the back of senior guard LJ Cryer, who drained two three-pointers on the way to Houston setting the tone of the game.

Shooting struggles from the Cougars early gave the Lancers the chance to keep the game from getting away from them.

After missing nine games due to injury, junior guard Ramon Walker Jr returned to the court for Houston in the first half after an initial expectation of being out for the remainder of the season.

As the first period rounded the halfway mark Houston finally found its rhythm offensively, turning up the heat largely on the back of efficient stretches from Cryer and senior guard Damian Dunn.

The Cougars rounded out the half on a smothering 16-3 run, leaving Longwood in the dust and entering the break with a 43-16 lead.

Houston’s halftime lead came out to be the second-largest halftime lead of the tournament up until that point, second only to UConn’s 52-19 halftime lead over Stetson earlier in the day.

Cryer was UH’s offensive leader in the first half, tallying 13 points on an efficient 50% clip from the field. Senior guard Jamal Shead dished out five assists in the half.

The Cougar’s didn’t let off the gas in the second half as sophomore guard Emanuel Sharp drained a three-pointer just moments into the period to make the UH lead expand to 30 points.

Longwood continued to struggle finding open space to shoot, tallying a measly 27% field goal clip with 13 minutes left to play.

Houston’s lead would grow as large as 41 points down the final stretch of the matchup. With the win inevitable, head coach Kelvin Sampson opted to limit senior forward J’Wan Roberts, who has lingering injuries in his knee and hand, to under 20 minutes.

As several Cougars starters were rested for much of the second half, it was Sharp and Dunn who packed on points for Houston in the period, scoring 13 and 11 point respectively.

At the final buzzer Houston had convincingly advanced to the Round of 32 with an 86-46 victory in the books.

Dunn tallied 17 points total across both periods, good for one of his best performances as a Houston Cougar. His point total tied with Cryer for a team-high on the night, while Shead put together a signature well-rounded performance of 11 points and nine assists.

The Houston defense, among the best in the country all year, put together another smothering performance with 12 steals and five blocks on the evening.

Houston now looks ahead to a daunting rematch in the Round of 32 against the Texas A&M Aggies on Sunday. The Cougars last played the Aggies earlier this season in Toyota Center in a thriller that saw junior Aggies guard Wade Taylor IV drop 34 points on Houston and nearly orchestrate a stunning comeback victory for Texas A&M.

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