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Marcus Sasser scores 17; Justin Gorham gets 19 boards in Houston's 74-60 win at SMU

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UPDATED: January 4, 2021 -- 8:17 a.m. CT

POSTED: January 3, 2021 -- 10:11 p.m. CT

DALLAS, TX (Moody Coliseum) -- The Houston Cougars men's basketball team handed the SMU Mustangs their first loss of the 2020-21 season with a 74-60 road win in Dallas Sunday night. Houston's Marcus Sasser scored a team-high 17 points to lead the Coogs. Justin Gorham owned the glass with a career-high 19 rebounds. Gorham also scored 11 points to post his second double-double this season.

DeJon Jarreau filled the stat sheet with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. After a scoreless first half, Quentin Grimes finished the game with 11 points. Grimes added 5 rebounds.

Jarreau scored 7 of Houston's first 9 points. Houston led 9-4; but, SMU went on a 9-3 run to lead 13-12. Marcus Sasser sank a 3 pointer for a 15-13 lead before SMU's Emmanuel Bandoumel scored a driving layup to tie the game at 15.

The game was tied at 19, 23, and at 25 before SMU's Kendric Davis hit a three-point shot to start a quick 5-0 spurt for a 30-25 Mustangs' lead. Houston freshman guard Tramon Mark scored 5 in a row to tie the game at 30.

Davis converted a 3 point play for a 33-30 SMU lead. Houston freshman guard Jamal Shead made 2 free throws to cap the scoring in the opening 20 minutes.

Houston (8-1 overall, 3-1 in the American Athletic Conference) trailed SMU 33-32 at the half. The first half had 8 ties and 7 lead changes.

SMU (6-1, 2-1) outrebounded Houston 19-17 in the first half and outscored Houston 9-6 in second chance points.

"I spent a lot of halftime talking about rebounding," Kelvin Sampson, Houston Head Coach said after the game. "Talking about our bigs. Brison (Brison Gresham) had more post touches than he had rebounds. We're not winning with that formula.

"Reggie (Reggie Chaney) was a mannequin. He was just wearing a uniform. 'Son, ball's shot. It's a miss. Somebody needs to go get it.'

"We had two guys on our team that were rebounding at halftime: DeJon (4 boards) and Justin (6 boards). Those were the two kids that I thought were exhibiting great toughness. Things that we preach in our culture."

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Quentin Grimes opened the second half with a three-point basket from the top of the key. Justin Gorham followed with a three-point bucket from the corner. Houston led 38-33 and SMU called a quick timeout. SMU didn't score out of the timeout; and, Grimes added a driving layup and 2 free throws to stretch Houston's lead to 42-33. Houston held SMU scoreless the first 3:11 of the second half.

Kendric Davis made a three-point shot to end SMU's scoring drought; but, Jarreau scored a driving layup to boost Houston's lead to 44-36. Houston's lead grew to 51-39. SMU scored 6 straight points to cut Houston's lead in half. Davis pulled SMU within 53-49; however, Houston went on an 10-2 run to push the lead back to 12 with 4:54 remaining in the ball game.

SMU scored 5 consecutive points to climb within 7 points; but, Reggie Chaney scored a layup off one of Houston's 17 offensive rebounds to boost Houston's lead to 9. After Davis split 2 free throws, Sasser dribbled then stopped on a dime to lose Davis and nail a three-pointer at the top of the key to put Houston up 68-57 with just 2:31 left in the ball game. SMU didn't closer than 10 points the rest of the game.

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In the second half, Houston outrebounded SMU 28-13 and outscored SMU 15-5 in second chance points.

"That's the reason we lost," Kendric Davis said after the game. "It wasn't for no other reason. We guarded the first shot great. They just got too many offensive rebounds. That's the reason why they won."

Davis scored a game-high 23 points in the loss.

"Second half, everybody stepped up," Coach Sampson remarked. "One of the things that's helped us this week is we had so much time to practice."

"Justin Gorham, 11 points. 19 rebounds," Coach Sampson continued. "I love that kid. He embodies our spirit. His toughness is his greatest strength. He's a tremendous role model for a lot of kids. You don't have to be a 5-star talented guy to be productive. There's a lot of really talented guys that never had 19 rebounds in a game. But, Justin is a winner. It's a blessing to be able to coach a kid like Justin. He represents everything that we value in our culture.

"Justin and DeJon, in the first half, those two guys carried half. In the second half, we had a lot of guys chip in."


Houston's next game is Wednesday, January 6, at 7 p.m., vs Wichita State. ESPN+ will stream the game.


Earlier Sunday, Houston announced guard Caleb Mills was stepping away from competition for personal reasons. No timetable for Mills' return.

After the game, Coach Kelvin Sampson commented on Mills' decision to step away for personal reasons:

"I talked to his father yesterday. I care more about Caleb than whether he plays or not. Whether he plays or not is irrelevant to me in the big picture. I want him to be comfortable. Between COVID and his injuries, he's just had a lot of stuff going on. What ever they think is best for him I fully support."

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