No. 1 Houston Cougars have their way with No. 16 Longwood as Ramon Walker Jr. returns

ByMatt Guillermo KTRK logo
Saturday, March 23, 2024
No. 1 Houston under primetime spotlight to start its March Madness run
The No. 1 Houston Cougars and the No. 16 Longwood Lancers tip off Friday in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's South Region.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (KTRK) -- For the first time in 32 days, Houston Cougars guard and Shadow Creek High School alum Ramon Walker Jr. took the court Friday as his No. 1-seeded team cruised to a 86-46 victory against the No. 16 Longwood Lancers.

Walker, who last played on Feb. 19 and tore the meniscus in his knee during a Feb. 22 practice, was available off the bench, entering at 12:44 in the first half while Houston held a 13-4 lead.

The 6-foot-4-inch sophomore immediately grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul, and made one of his first two free throws. He also added a steal and another rebound, playing in limited minutes.

Kelvin Sampson, who at 68 years old is the third-oldest head coach in the 2024 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, said Walker brings enormous energy and rebounding to a short-handed team. The Coogs lost Terrance Arceneaux and Joseph Tugler to season-ending injuries, with Walker thought to be lost, too.

Houston guard Ramon Walker Jr. (3) pulls down a rebound past Longwood defenders during a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2024.
AP Photo/Brandon Dill

Beyond Walker's energizing return, the Coogs' brutalizing defense quickly acquainted themselves with Longwood, who had turned the ball over 17 times. The Cougars made their living in the paint, outscoring the Lancers 40-14.

Houston also shot 47% from beyond the arc.

L.J. Cryer and Damian Dunn, a senior who came off the bench and averaged 17 minutes a game this season, each scored 17 points. All-American guard Jamal Shead was an assist shy of a double-double, registering an 11-point, nine-rebound night.

An intriguing matchup awaits Houston. No. 9 Texas A&M advanced past No. 8 Nebraska earlier Friday in Memphis. The Coogs and the Aggies, former Southwest Conference mates, faced each other on Dec. 16, 2023, a UH victory.

They face off on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen set for Dallas. A tip-off time wasn't immediately announced.

ABC13's Adam Winkler is with the team in Memphis. Tune into Eyewitness News broadcasts for live reports and reactions from the Coogs.

More coverage on UH's March Madness bid

Houston's Jamal Shead (1) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Houston. Houston won 73-65.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip