HOUSTON (AP) — Tramon Mark scored 18 points off the bench, Marcus Sasser had 17 points and a career-high six steals and No. 14 Houston defeated Alcorn State 77-45 on Monday night.
Kyler Edwards finished with 12 points and seven rebounds and Josh Carlton had 12 points for the Cougars (8-1), who have won four in a row. Houston shot 47% overall.
“I feel like we are getting our groove together,” Sasser said. “We have a full rotation. … I feel like every game our chemistry is getting better.”
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson praised Sasser’s leadership and the play of his guards: Sasser, Edwards and Jamal Shead.
“We had one leader on that floor tonight and that was Marcus Sasser,” Sampson said. “I thought our perimeter defense was outstanding tonight as it is most nights. Those guys really understand our system. They know how to guard coverages. They know our coverages. They know how to guard actions. They’re smart and they’re tough, and I have an appreciation for that.”
Houston forced Alcorn State (1-7) into 20 turnovers, which the Cougars turned into 30 points. During its winning streak, Houston is averaging over 30 points a game off turnovers.
Sampson said part of the way they teach their team to defend is they shrink the floor and protect the paint as well as do one or two things to disrupt the other team’s offense.
“I think the hardest thing to teach in basketball is defense,” Sampson said. “Offense sells tickets, but defense and rebounding wins championships. If you can’t defend and rebound, you have no chance.”
The Cougars, who never trailed, won their 31st straight at home.
Dominic Brewton scored eight points and Darrious Agnew added seven points for the Braves. Alcorn State shot 31% from the field.
“You have to be perfect to stay on the court against a team like this,” Alcorn State coach Landon Bussie said. “We had way too many turnovers; we missed way too many free throws; we missed way too many layups. We gave up way too many second chance opportunities.”
After cutting Houston’s lead to 19-12 on two free throws by Dontrell McQuarter with 7½ minutes remaining in the first half, the Cougars outscored Alcorn State 20-7 to take a 39-19 lead at the break. Carlton had six points in the run to end the half.
Alcorn State: The Braves are in the middle of 16 straight road games to begin the season. … Alcorn State struggled with Houston’s size and was unable to get many close shots. The Braves were able to get to the free throw line but struggled there, hitting 11 of 20.
“It’s just tough to match up with them no matter who’s on the court,” Bussie said. “That’s just a really, really good basketball team. That’s going to be the most physical team we play all year.”
Houston: The Cougars started out slow, hitting two of 10 from the field to start the game before finishing the first half making 11 of their last 18 shots. … Houston owned the rebounding advantage 40-32 and had a 34-16 advantage in points in the paint.
DISHING IT OUT
Shead tied a career high with 11 assists as the Cougars dished out 18 assists on 27 baskets. Shead finished with five points and five rebounds with no turnovers.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS
With his 675th career win, Sampson moved into a tie for 35th with Denny Crum on the NCAA list for most coaching victories.
Alcorn State: At Wichita State on Dec. 14.
Houston: At No. 9 Alabama on Saturday.
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