Kelvin Sampson, Houston Cougars

The Houston Cougars knocked off Virginia in Charlottesville behind Jarace Walker’s big night.

Virginia got off to a quick 9-0 start, but the Houston Cougars quickly bounced back and brought a 30-26 lead into the break. The Cougars extended their lead to as much as 13, and despite spurts of scoring from Virginia, held on to a 69-61 win without trailing in the second half.

Marcus Sasser was kept quiet by Virginia’s defense, scoring only 13 on 4-of-14 shooting, but Jarace Walker picked up the slack, leading all scorers with 17 points.

For Virginia, Kadin Shedrick led the way with 16, and freshman Isaac McKneely had a nice game with nine points off the bench.

1. Jarace Walker’s Coming Out Party

The 5-star freshman had his best game of the year in this one, leading all scorers with 17 points, all of which seemed to come in critical situations. The freshman has been forced to take a bit of a backseat offensively early on this season, but was given the keys today and did not hold back.

Walker played all but one minute in the game, making 6 of his 11 shots, including two shots from beyond the arc. Walker also tallied seven assists. The 6-8 forward was a matchup nightmare for a sensational Virginia defense, and although the ‘Hoos kept Marcus Sasser in check, Walker was able to give Houston basketball the scoring they needed to win.

2. Virginia’s Shooting Woes Continue

Virginia started the season red-hot from beyond the arc but has since cooled off significantly. The ‘Hoos made just six of their 22 attempts from long range in today’s contest, including many open looks.

Ben Vander Plas, a 36% three-point shooter entering the game, went 0-of-6 from beyond the arc today. Kihei Clark went 1-for-5. Virginia needs the two of them, as well as the rest of the rotation, to regain their shooting strokes if they want to maintain their national position and make a championship run.

3. Houston outhustled Virginia

Unfortunately, there’s no stat to back up this claim, but Houston clearly played with more aggression in this one. Constantly diving toward loose balls, making the extra effort for second chances, and just playing with an extra spark that Virginia did not have.

Matchup-wise, the Houston Cougars played extremely well and created problems for UVA on both ends of the ball. Their shooters were sharp, and they did a great job creating shots. Yet, the clear difference in the contest was the Cougars’ heart and passion, and they drove Virginia to the ground, especially in the second half.

By Samuel Bass

Writing sports, college basketball, ACC hoops