Freshman guard Marcus Sasser scores 14 points, as the Houston Cougars record their first victory of the new season at the expense of the Alabama State Hornets.

Cougars win big in season opener against Alabama State

Kelvin Sampson. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The University of Houston Men's Basketball team kicked off their 2019-20 season with an 84-56 victory over the Alabama State Hornets Tuesday night inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

It was an all-around team effort for Houston as five players scored in double figures in the win. Marcus Sasser recorded 14 points shooting 5-for-9 from the floor, 4-for-7 from behind the arc, as the freshman guard led the Cougars in scoring during his debut for Houston.

"I saw a lot of things I like, and a lot of things we have to continue getting better at and keep working on," Cougars Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I thought we did a lot of things pretty good. At one point, I was sitting there and had to remind myself, 'you have to be patient with this bunch.' We have a lot of young guys out there."

Fabian White scored a layup on the opening tip to put the Cougars on the board for the first time in the new season. The layup that was scored by the junior forward capped off an early 13-2 run for Houston.

What looked to be an early blowout in the first six minutes quickly turned into a competitive game, due to the Cougars' inability to stop the Hornets' hot 3-point shooting. Alabama State shot 6-for-13 (46.2%) from behind the arc in the first half, and once cut their 16 point deficit down to nine.

Following a timeout by Sampson, the Cougars ended the first half on a 10-3 run, which gave way to a 41-25 lead into the break. After a slow start to the game, reigning AAC Sixth Man of the Year winner, DeJon Jarreau, got into a rhythm in the second half to provide some much-needed offense for the Cougars. He scored seven of his 11 points early in the second period to help Houston gain a 21 point advantage.

Although the Cougars shot 52% from the field, a large portion of their second-half surge came as a result of their defense. After allowing the Hornets to hit six triples in the first half, Houston's defense held Alabama State to one 3-point field goal in the second, as they shot 12.5% from deep.

"They hit some tough shots and scored most of them out of our 1-2 defense," Sampson said. "We were not recovering to them fast enough, and they were getting some wide-open looks. Once we adjusted to man-to-man defense, they [Alabama State] were no longer getting those wide-open looks."

In his first official game after transferring from Kansas, sophomore guard Quentin Grimes had a solid debut with 13 points and five rebounds in the win. Junior forward Justin Gorham recorded 11 points, four rebounds and a steal nearly two years since his last college game.

"It was good," Gorham said. "I felt that the Italy trip this past summer helped a lot. But coming out here playing in front of the fans and buying into the culture, I knew my game was going to take care of itself."

Following the win against the Hornets, the Houston Cougars will return to the court on Friday, when they host the BYU Cougars inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. Tip-off is slated for 7 P.M.

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