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Last of unbeatens, No. 2 Houston faces challenge at Iowa State

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No. 2 Houston has been virtually unstoppable but will be tested by Iowa State on Tuesday in a Big 12 Conference matchup in Ames, Iowa.

The Cougars (14-0, 1-0 Big 12) rolled past West Virginia 89-55 at home on Saturday afternoon in their Big 12 debut as L.J. Cryer poured in 20 points and Damian Dunn added 14 for Houston. The Cougars, the last unbeaten team in Division I, shot 53.1 percent from the floor and committed just five turnovers as they opened league play with a bang.

“I was excited for our fans, and I was excited for the university,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “For us, we wanted to win, for sure, and there is excitement about playing our first conference game. Now, we’re going to play our second one. I just don’t spend a lot of time with the hoopla stuff.”

Ja’Vier Francis scored 13 points and Jamal Shead dished out 11 assists for Houston. The Cougars were most impressive on defense, allowing West Virginia to make only 32.1 percent of its field goals and hit just 4 of its 23 3-point attempts.

“When we focus on defense, we’re gonna get out in transition, make easier shots,” Cryer said. “Just being locked in on defense won’t give us a reason to doubt the offense. I feel like because today I was defensive focused, that’s why the ball was going in.”

Nine of Houston’s 14 wins have been by 30 or more points.

“Our kids have always had a bit of a chip on their shoulders here,” Sampson said. “We’ve had to get some of our own fans to understand that we’re pretty good. Some of them still have not figured it out. Our kids have and our coaches have, and we know who we are, and what we’re capable of doing.”

The Cyclones (11-3, 0-1) head home after a 71-63 loss at No. 11 Oklahoma on Saturday. Iowa State played from behind most of the game before surging to the front with five minutes to play. But the Cyclones allowed Oklahoma to reel off seven straight points and never threatened again.

“That last four minutes we have to be able to hang our hat on what we do defensively — it’s what we do every day,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “As this team continues to still come together, we’re still forming that identity.”

Milan Momcilovic, Hason Ward and Robert Jones scored 12 points each for Iowa State. The Cyclones’ high-flying backcourt of Tamin Lipsey and Keshon Gllbert combined for just 10 points and both fouled out. Iowa State made only 3 of its 16 3-point attempts in the loss, which snapped a six-game winning streak dating to a four-point neutral court setback to Texas A&M on Nov. 26.

“We believe in what we do defensively and we’ve got to trust it,” Otzelberger added. “Because we didn’t get timely stops and honestly that’s what separates us from winning and losing.”

–Field Level Media

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