No. 2 Houston rallies to survive Kent State

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During a holiday week the Nos. 1 and 3 teams were upset, the University of Houston survived on Saturday afternoon.

Just barely.

The second-ranked Cougars trailed for nearly the entire first half and had to rally in the final minute for a tense 49-44 victory over Kent State at Fertitta Center.

Next up: A possible coronation as the nation’s top-ranked men’s college basketball team.

The Cougars (6-0) moved into position to take the top spot after No. 1 North Carolina lost to Iowa State and No. 3 Kansas fell to No. 22 Tennessee on Friday.

It looked like the Cougars would join the list of upsets as Kent State took a 44-43 lead on a 3-pointer by Malique Jacobs with 1:05 left. Jamal Shead answered with a layup to put the Cougars back in front, and Marcus Sasser added four free throws in the final 30 seconds as the Cougars avoided the upset.

Kent State missed two consecutive 3-pointers that would have tied the game in the final minute.

It was that type of back-and-forth game for the Cougars, who struggled with uncharacteristic turnovers (23) and shot 32 percent. UH trailed most of the first half and opened the game 0-for-11 from 3-point range.

Kent State missed 15 consecutive shots to end the first half, going scoreless for 8 ½ minutes, and shooting 19.4 percent in the first half. A pair of free throws by Sasser gave the Cougars their first lead, 24-22, with 1:24 before halftime.

Kent State (5-2), the preseason pick to win the Mid-American Conference, opened the second half with an 8-0 run for a 30-24 lead. Tramon Mark and Sasser hit consecutive 3-pointers and Reggie Chaney had a dunk and followed with a steal to spark a fastbreak layup by Sasser for a 34-30 advantage.

Sasser had a game-high 19 points and J’Wan Roberts added 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Cougars.

The Cougars took control with a 15-0 run midway through the second half. Kent State had another lengthy cold spell, missing 17 of 18 shot attempts as the Cougars seized a 39-31 lead.

The Golden Flashes weren’t done as VonCameron Davis tied the game at 41 with a 3-pointer with 2:59 left and Malique Jacobs added another to give Kent State a 44-43 lead with 1:05 left.

Shead followed with a layup, and the Cougars hit free throws down the stretch to survive.

UH has been ranked No. 1 twice in school history – in 1968 and 1983 to end the regular season.



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