HOUSTON — Marcus Sasser scored 19 points and No. 6 Houston beat SMU 70-48 on Sunday for its eighth straight win.
Sasser bounced back to make five of his last 10 shots. After scoring just three points in a victory over Tulane on Thursday, he opened 0 for 5 against the Mustangs.
“My teammates kept telling me every time I went to the bench, `Keep shooting the ball,”‘ Sasser said. “Coach (Kelvin Sampson) tells me all the time he doesn’t care how many I miss, just keep shooting. Even when I am off to a bad start like that, I keep shooting and gaining confidence because my teammates put that confidence in me even though I miss.”
Justin Gorham had nine points and 17 rebounds for Houston (15-1, 10-1 American Athletic Conference), which won its 20th consecutive home game. Reggie Chaney added 10 points.
The Cougars won despite shooting only 34%.
“I thought our offense was great the first half, we just weren’t making open shots,” Sampson said. “Look at how many open shots we missed, look at how many shots around the rim we were missing. I told our guys, `Don’t worry about that, you’ll make them.”‘
Houston outrebounded SMU 45-33 and committed 10 turnovers.
“Our defense has been getting better,” Sampson said. “There are three core tenets of our program – our defense, our rebounding and taking care of the ball. I thought we were outstanding in all three areas.”
Kendric Davis led SMU (9-4, 5-4) with 11 points. Feron Hunt and Yor Anei each scored 10 points for the Mustangs, who made 32% percent of their shots.
“I thought in the first half we played incredibly hard, boxed out, kept them off the glass,” SMU assistant coach Yaphett King said. “We did battle with them, but in the second half, they kept coming, kept coming. We didn’t match that intensity, which I wish we would have because I think if we could have hung in there, some shots would have started to fall, and we would have gotten some confidence from it.”
Houston led 28-24 at halftime, then went on a 14-3 run, capped by Gorham’s three-point play with 16 minutes left.
SMU: Coach Tim Jankovich missed his fourth straight game due to COVID-19 after first feeling symptoms on Jan. 21 and testing positive four days later. The Mustangs missed all eight 3-pointers they tried in the second half.
Houston: Gorham became the first Cougars player with eight straight double-digit rebounding games since Tim Moore did it eight games in a row during the 1995-96 season. Quentin Grimes, who entered averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, finished with six points and six rebounds, snapping a streak of 13 straight double-figure scoring games.
“Rebounding is heart, and nobody’s heart is bigger than Justin’s,” Sampson said. “Justin has gotten better. He has fully embraced rebounding. It couldn’t have been a better match.”
Hunt’s layup just over two minutes into the game put SMU ahead 2-0 – it was the first time the Cougars were behind in over 189 minutes. Before Sunday, the Cougars last trailed with 13:02 remaining in the first half against Tulane on Jan. 9, a span stretching almost five games.