Francis, Sasser lead No. 5 Houston past NC A&T 74-46

HOUSTON (AP) — Ja’Vier Francis had career highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds, Marcus Sasser scored 17 points, and No. 5 Houston rebounded from its first loss with a 74-46 win over North Carolina A&T on Tuesday night.

Sasser, a preseason All-American, was 6 of 10 from the field after shooting 2 of 11 and scoring nine points in Houston’s 71-65 loss to Alabama on Saturday.

“It was a great feeling to see the ball go in,” Sasser said. “My main focus going into this game was playing hard and trying to rebound and impact the game in different ways. I haven’t been shooting it well, so that wasn’t really my main focus going into this game. I just went there and played hard and good things happened. The ball started going into the goal.”

Francis was 7 of 10 as Houston (10-1) shot 50% on the night. Emanuel Sharp scored 10 points off the bench.

“I made a conscious effort that our biggest big off the bench was Ja’Vier, our first guard was Emanuel,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “… (Ja’Vier) is going to be good. He just keeps getting better. His confidence is growing.”

Kam Woods scored 26 points to lead the Aggies (4-5). Woods scored 17 of North Carolina A&T’s 21 first-half points and finished 10 of 18 from the field. Demetric Horton added 11 points.

“Houston is hard to score against,” North Carolina A&T coach Phillip Shumpert said. “They do that to everybody. Relentless pressure. One of the toughest teams in the country. I told our guys that if we can get to that point where we are playing that tough for 40 minutes and put our offense together with it, we will be a successful basketball team.”

The Cougars outrebounded North Carolina A&T 46-26, including 14-7 on the offensive boards. Houston held a 22-6 advantage in second-chance points and a 42-14 advantage in the paint.

Sampson was happy with how his team rebounded from its loss.

“Whoever you play after a game like that, your biggest concern is getting your energy level back up,” Sampson said. “It was a quick turnaround, which is hard to do. Where it affects you the most is your legs because these kids play so hard.”

The Aggies shot 29%, including 6 of 25 on 3-pointers, as their three-game winning streak ended.

Leading 19-16 with 8:49 remaining in the first half, Houston closed the half on a 17-5 run to extend its advantage to 36-21. Francis scored six points during the spurt.

“We couldn’t score,” Shumpert said. “Our defense wasn’t bad, but as we went on that scoring drought (to end the first half), they started slowly kept building their lead. … We couldn’t hit the basket.”

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina A&T: The Aggies were playing their first game since Nov. 30, when they defeated UNC Greensboro 73-56.

Houston: The Cougars are 25-1 after a loss under Sampson since the 2017-18 season. … Houston got 40 points from its bench. … After committing four turnovers in the first three minutes, Houston settled down and finished the half with seven giveaways.

UP NEXT

North Carolina A&T: Faces Texas Southern on Saturday at the HBCU Challenge in Las Vegas.

Houston: At No. 2 Virginia on Saturday.

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