Francis scores 23, No. 3 Houston beats McNeese State 83-44
HOUSTON (AP) — Ja’Vier Francis scored a career-high 23 points and had 13 rebounds as No. 3 Houston routed McNeese State 83-44 on Wednesday night.
Emanuel Sharp added 18 points while going 6 of 10 on 3-pointers for the Cougars, and Marcus Sasser hit 5 of 10 from long range and scored 17 points. The pair combined to shoot 9 of 14 on 3s in the first half.
“Our young guys have been getting better,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Every minute that Ja’Vier gets is just an investment for our program and for him. Same thing for Emanuel. We got good young players, but they are playing on a veteran team.”
Coming off a hard-fought 69-61 win at then-No. 2 Virginia on Saturday, Houston (12-1) had an easier time scoring. The Cougars went 11 of 20 from long range in the opening half and led 42-19 at the break.
Roberts Berze scored 13 points and Christian Shumate added 10 for McNeese State (3-10). The Cowboys lost their fourth straight game.
Houston shot 52.5% from the field, including 14 of 33 on 3-pointers.
“The good thing about our 3s tonight was who was taking them,” Sampson said. “Our two best 3-point shooters are Marcus and Emanuel. Shot selection is important, and our kids know that.”
The Cougars outrebounded the Cowboys 43-22 and converted 16 McNeese State turnovers into 23 points.
“The thing that’s so good about them is they are so good and big inside and on the glass, so you try to be inside oriented and really shrink the paint and try to hit bodies,” McNeese State coach John Aiken said. “But then (Sharp) and Sasser ... hit nine 3s in the first half, (and) they become a lethal team.”
McNeese State shot 37%, including 6 of 24 on 3s.
Houston used a 20-2 run over an 8 1/2-minute span of the first half to open a 27-9 lead on a 3-pointer by Tramon Mark with 4:40 remaining. Sharp had nine points in the run.
McNeese State: The Cowboys fell to 0-4 this season against ranked opponents and 0-31 all-time. Each of the four losses this season were by at least 29 points.
“I challenged us like crazy in the nonconference,” Aiken said. “We had a very challenging schedule, and our team has stayed together. You come to these environments, and the reason I did this is because if we are ever to make the NCAA Tournament, we are going to be playing a one-seed, so I want to expose our guys to what it looks like to play the No. 1 overall seed in the country.”
Houston: The Cougars finished with 12 regular-season nonconference wins, tied for second-most in a season behind the 13 they had in 2018-19. ... Houston held a 20-4 advantage in second-chance points. The Cougars had 23 assists on 32 baskets.
Sampson said following the loss to Alabama on Dec. 10 that his team had a “come-to-Jesus meeting about how they were going to play.”
“Some things just aren’t negotiable,” he said. “The ball’s got to move. Move it.”
NO FOUL TROUBLE
Houston was whistled for four fouls, a school record for the fewest fouls committed in a game.
McNeese State: At Lamar on Dec. 31 to begin Southland Conference play.
Houston: At Tulsa on Dec. 28 to start American Athletic Conference play.
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