HOUSTON (AP) — Marcus Sasser scored 25 points, Taze Moore added 12 and No. 15 Houston rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half to defeat Hofstra 83-75 in overtime Tuesday night.
Sasser scored 19 points after half as the Cougars outscored Hofstra 34-13 over the final 8 ½ minutes and overtime.
Kyler Edwards had 10 points and 11 rebounds and J’Wan Roberts chipped in eight points and 15 rebounds for Houston, which shot 45% and was 10 of 24 on 3-pointers.
“I think the thing that frustrated me the most was that I have a brand-new team,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Everybody thinks you’re better than you are until you see what I’ve seen the last month.
“We’re going to struggle until we find an identity. We found an identity the last six minutes. We didn’t have one the first 34. Was I surprised by that? Of course not. You think this stuff is easy? It’s hard to win a game.”
Houston struggled from the free-throw line, making 15 of 25. The Cougars extended their home winning streak to 26 games.
“I am glad we played a good team tonight,” Sampson said. “First of all, I am thankful to win, but I am also thankful we struggled. We played harder than them the last six minutes. Our defense just went up another level. Our rebounding, we dominated the boards the last six minutes.”
Zach Cooks scored 26 points and Aaron Estrada added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Pride. Omar Silverio had 13 points for Hofstra, which shot 39% from the field and made 12 of 43 3s.
First-year coach Speedy Claxton said he thought his team “ran out of gas” at the end.
“I think their size and strength just overcame us,” Claxton said. “We got tired. It was their home opener, and we just lost it towards the end there. It was tough for us to get scoring opportunities around the basket with their size. That’s what you’re going to have to go up against when you play these types of teams.”
Trailing 62-49, the Cougars went on a 20-7 run to tie it 69-all on a 3-pointer by Moore from the corner with 24 seconds left in regulation.
“Taze hit some big shots down the stretch,” Sasser said. “Once he gets his confidence going, I feel like Taze can help us a lot.”
Estrada’s heave from behind the 3-point line with a second left missed, but Houston touched the ball going out of the bounds. The Pride’s lob inbounds was knocked away by Fabian White Jr. to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, Sasser and Jamal Shead sandwiched 3-pointers around a Cooks jumper, and Roberts hit a lay-up with two minutes to go to increase Houston’s lead to 77-71.
Hofstra: The Pride, picked to finish fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association, had an answer for every Houston run until the last one. Hofstra has nine newcomers under Claxton and held the lead for over 36 minutes.
“Almost doesn’t count,” Claxton said. “We came out there and fought. I am super proud of the way they played tonight. I couldn’t be happier.”
Houston: Guard Tramon Mark, who averaged 7.8 points per game last season, was out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. … Houston, which was picked to win the American Athletic Conference, held a 32-26 advantage in points in the paint and outrebounded the Pride 46-42.
“Good game for us all the way around,” Sampson said. “The struggles were good, not making free throws, missing point blank putbacks. Actually, the execution was pretty good, especially out of timeouts. We got a lot of really good looks. We just didn’t make anything.”
Houston unveiled its 2021 Final Four banner on the upper concourse at the Fertitta Center before the game. The trip to the Final Four in April was the Cougars’ first since 1984 and sixth in school history.
Hofstra: Visits Duquesne on Saturday.
Houston: Hosts crosstown rival Rice on Friday.
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