No. 2 Houston's Sasser and Walker combine for 34 points to take down SMU

The team's 24th win of the season comes a day removed from an SEC upset when Tennessee took down No. 1 Alabama.

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Friday, February 17, 2023
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For a top college hoops program, the Houston Cougars have been a patient bunch deep into a potential national title-winning season.

The No. 2 team in the Associated Press Top 25 this week stayed in that position from the week before despite previously top-ranked Purdue losing on back to back weeks.

SEE ALSO: Houston denied top spot after win at Temple, No. 1 Boilermakers' loss

Houston faced that same scenario earlier in the season after Purdue's first loss before climbing to No. 1.

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Basically, Houston has grabbed timely wins while other poll leaders have lost left and right.

This scenario played out on Wednesday when this week's No. 1 program, the Alabama Crimson Tide, lost by nine against No. 10 Tennessee, dropping them to 22-4.

SEE MORE: There's a new No. 1 on the men's college hoops Top 25, and it's not UH

What have the Coogs done following that? Just cruise to an 80-65 win over SMU in Dallas on Thursday. Jarace Walker and Marcus Sasser combined to score 34 points for their 24th win of the season.

This win is crucial for coach Kelvin Sampson's bunch for this week if their goal is claiming No. 1 again. In a sport that weighs both wins and quality of victories, UH has had to take the season week by week.

Case in point, the Coogs' job isn't done yet. They face the tough Memphis Tigers, who are second in the American Athletic Conference and have tournament aspirations of their own. That game is on Sunday, the day before the AP reveals its poll results.

Houston's J'Wan Roberts and Marcus Sasser celebrate after Sasser made a 3-point shot during the second half of the team's game against SMU, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, in Dallas.
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Sweep the week, and No. 1 surely belongs to Houston for the third time this season.

Sampson and a healthy portion of the Coogs' fanbase will tell you that rankings at any point of the season don't matter, but momentum from them does.

"We want to be No. 1," Sasser said after the SMU game. "Just really don't just care about it too much, really."

Sampson echoed as much.

"That never creeps into our conversations," Sampson said. "I've got enough stuff to watch, things to critique about this game when I get on that bus."

As of Thursday night, the Men's College Basketball Power Index gives Houston a 59% chance of making the Final Four, a 46% chance of making the national title game, and better than a one-in-three shot of winning it all.

What's left for the Coogs?

ABC13 sister network ESPN is airing the Memphis matchup.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.