HOUSTON (AP)Marcus Sasser scored 21 points, J’Wan Roberts added 12 points and six rebounds, and No. 3 Houston opened the season with an 83-36 win over Northern Colorado on Monday night.
Sasser, a preseason All-American, scored 11 points in the first half. He finished 7 of 14 from the field and made 4 of 8 3-pointers. The senior guard missed the second half of last season and all of Houston’s run to the Elite Eight with a toe injury.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson won his 700th career game and 200th with the Cougars.
Emanuel Sharp scored 11 points, Jamal Shead had nine points and nine assists, and Jarace Walker had eight points and 12 rebounds for Houston. The Cougars shot 44% and were 11 of 29 on 3-pointers.
The Cougars, who started the season with their highest ranking since the 1967-68 team began at No. 2, have won 14 straight openers.
Matt Johnson II, Riley Abercrombie and Caleb Shaw each scored eight points for the Bears. Northern Colorado shot 26% and went 5 of 21 on 3-pointers.
Houston finished the first half on a 10-2 run to open a 32-13 lead on a 3-pointer by Sasser. The 13 points were the second fewest allowed in a first half in school history. The Cougars gave up 12 to UConn on Dec. 28, 2016.
Northern Colorado: The Bears, who were picked to finish second in the Big Sky, held their own against Houston for much of the first half on the defensive end but struggled to do much offensively. The Cougars’ size and athleticism were too much for Bears.
Houston: The Cougars were sluggish to start and had issues breaking Northern Colorado’s zone for most of the first half. Rebounding and defense continue to be staples for the Cougars, who outrebounded the Bears 43-31 and forced 23 turnovers, which they converted into 27 points.
Sampson, the 33rd Division I coach to reach 700 victories, has a 700-340 overall record and is 200-70 in nine seasons with Houston. He was presented a game ball to commemorate the win and a video of former players congratulating him was shown.
Northern Colorado: Hosts Texas A&M-Commerce on Friday.
Houston: Faces St. Joseph’s in Annapolis, Maryland, on Friday as part of the Veteran’s Classic.
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