HOUSTON — Marcus Sasser scored 20 of his career-high 28 points in the first half to lead No. 11 Houston past Tulane 71-50 on Saturday.
Sasser shot 7 of 9, including 6 of 7 on 3-pointers, in the first half as the Cougars (10-1, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) built a 12-point halftime lead.
“They were leaving me open a little bit, and coach (Kelvin Sampson) gives me confidence to shoot the ball,” Sasser said. “Every time I shot it, it was going in. I feel like that was the hottest I’ve been.”
Sasser finished with a career-high eight 3-pointers.
“I thought we did a good job of executing our stuff, moving it and finding Marcus,” Sampson said. “We’ve had some gifted shooters come through here over the years, and Marcus is right in that class with those guys.”
Quentin Grimes scored 14 points. Houston shot 44%, including 15 of 36 on 3-pointers.
The Cougars outrebounded Tulane 48-26, which led to an 18-9 advantage in second-chance points.
Jordan Walker scored 13 points and Jaylen Forbes had 11 for Tulane (6-3, 1-3).
“I thought there were stretches where our kids played well,” Tulane coach Ron Hunter said. “(Houston) shot the ball well today, probably the best they have shot it all year. Again, this is the standard. As I told our guys, if you want to learn to compete, this is how you compete.”
The Green Wave shot 29%, including 6 of 19 on 3-pointers.
“We’re just not mature enough that when they make runs, we can end it,” Hunter said. “Then, they get confident. Sasser made six 3-pointers in the first half, and I think on three of them, we just flat out lost him, something we hadn’t done all year.
“When they make shots like that from the perimeter, I’m not sure how you can beat them,” he added.
Houston used a 16-5 spurt to take a 34-21 lead on a layup by DeJon Jarreau with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half. Sasser had eight points in the run.
Houston led 37-25 at the half.
The Cougars extended the lead to 43-27 on consecutive 3-pointers by Grimes with 16 minutes remaining and never let Tulane get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
Tulane: The Green Wave last defeated a ranked opponent on Dec. 22, 1999, when Tulane beat then-No. 25 NC State. Tulane won the turnover battle for the eighth time in nine games this season, forcing Houston into 14 while committing 10. Tulane finished 14 of 17 from the free-throw line.
“Their physicality wears you out, and it wears you out not physically but mentally,” Hunter said. “That’s what it ended up doing to my young kids because again, the physicality was too much for us.”
Houston: The Cougars won its fifth straight at home against Tulane. Justin Gorham led Houston in rebounding with 11, which was his third consecutive game with at least 10 boards. The Cougars got 19 points from their bench.
“We’re getting much better,” Houston center Brison Gresham said. “I still feel like we have a way higher ceiling. I think we should be 11-0. Defensively, I think we could get way better.”
HE SAID IT
“I think he’s got a Final Four team. I’m not trying to put pressure on (Sampson), but I’ve been around a long time. That is a really, really good basketball team.” -Hunter on the Cougars.
Tulane: Travels to Cincinnati on Jan. 16.
Houston: Travels to South Florida on Thursday.