COUGARS DEFEAT LONGWOOD

Top seed Houston has easy start to March Madness, pounds Longwood

Houston Cougars Kelvin Sampson
Cougars beat Longwood, 86-46. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

LJ Cryer and Damian Dunn scored 17 points each as top-seeded Houston built a quick double-digit lead and pounded 16 seed Longwood 86-46 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

Coach Kelvin Sampson's Cougars (31-4) lived up to their reputation for smothering defense. They led 10-0 less than four minutes into the game and held the Lancers (21-14) to 16 points on 26.3% shooting in the first half.

“I thought our kids were sharp the first half,” Sampson said. “Our defense was really good. We watched film on Longwood, winning their tournament. ... We had a lot of respect for them, and we played accordingly.”

Emanuel Sharp added 13 points and Jamal Shead finished with 11 points and nine assists for Houston, which will face Texas A&M on Sunday in the second round of the South Region.

Johnathan Massie led Longwood, the Big South Conference tournament champion, with 10 points.

“It’s really hard to simulate that level of physicality and speed and just how hard they play,” Longwood coach Griff Aldrich said, adding that he thought his team “broke” in the first half.

Houston, ranked No. 2 in the AP Top 25, was coming off a 69-41 loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament championship game, but the Cougars showed no lingering effects as they won their sixth straight first-round game in March Madness. They came in holding opponents to an average of 57 points per game and 38% shooting, and Longwood fell short of those totals.

Sampson said the difference after the Iowa State loss was the Cougars' ability to get rest. Houston is dealing with injuries that have cut into its rotation, and Sampson said his team was spent by the time it faced the Cyclones.

“We came in on Monday, worked on our defense. Worked on our defense on Tuesday. And we started working on Longwood on Wednesday,” Sampson said. “We just needed to tighten some things up. I could see us slipping.”

Houston was aggressive and double-teamed at opportune moments, forcing 14 turnovers in the first half alone. Only three Lancers scored before halftime as the Cougars led 43-16 at the break.

“They're just aggressive,” said Longwood senior guard Walyn Napper, who averages 14.6 points but was held to eight. “They earned my respect. That's the reason they are one of the best teams in the nation.”

Houston led by 41 midway through the second half, at which point Sampson began substituting. No Houston starter played more than 29 minutes.

“We don’t really look at favorites or the seeding,” Shead said. “They’re a good team, and they were here for a reason. So we looked at it like another game where we have to have the right approach or we could have lost.”

BIG PICTURE

Longwood: The Lancers didn't have the talent or athleticism to get good looks at the basket against Houston. They shot 34.1% overall and 23.1% from 3-point range.

Houston: The Cougars' defense turned this one into an early blowout. Houston also shot 58.5%, including 11 of 23 (47.8%) from beyond the arc.

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