Walker, defense lead No. 5 Houston past No. 2 Virginia 69-61

Dec 16, 2022, 11:20 PM | Updated: Dec 17, 2022, 2:48 pm
Virginia forward Jayden Gardner (1) throws the ball up against. Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) ...

Virginia forward Jayden Gardner (1) throws the ball up against. Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)

(AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)

              Virginia forward Jayden Gardner (1) throws the ball up against. Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) goes up with the ball up during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston forward Jarace Walker (25) smiles during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, left, and Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson greet each other before an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston forward J'Wan Roberts (13) looks to the basket as Virginia's Kadin Shedrick (21) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston guard Marcus Sasser (0) shoots over Virginia's Reece Beekman (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game  in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston guard Marcus Sasser (0) dribbles the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston guard Tramon Mark (12) move past a Virginia defender during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Virginia head coach Tony Bennett yells during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Houston in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)
            
              Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson calls out during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Erin Edgerton)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Blowing a 15-point lead in the second half against No. 4 Alabama a week ago got the attention of No. 5 Houston’s players. Coach Kelvin Sampson made sure of it.

It may have helped the Cougars stymie a comeback by No. 2 Virginia on Saturday.

Jarace Walker scored 17 points and Houston used runs in each half and the nation’s best scoring defense to beat the Cavaliers 69-61. The Cougars scored on three straight possessions after a steal and layup by Kihei Clark brought a sellout crowd clad in orange to its feet, exhorting Virginia to rely on its own defense to finish the comeback.

“I’m not sure we’re able to do that without the Alabama experience,” Sampson said.

After Clark pulled the Cavaliers within 54-48, Jamal Shead scored on a drive, Tramon Mark hit a 3-pointer and Walker made a tough fadeaway, keeping the Cavaliers at bay.

“Just keeping our composure when you get a big lead and just be mature and try not to go away from what we’ve been doing, which we did against Alabama,” J’Wan Roberts said. “We watch film and we learn. We grew from that.”

Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark each added 13 points for the Cougars (11-1), who used a 10-2 run early in the second half to open a 40-30 lead. Virginia (8-1), playing for the first time in 11 days, never got closer than six again, and each time the Cougars answered.

The Cavaliers shot 41.7% (20-48). Coach Tony Bennett said when shots aren’t falling, that makes the quality of play on the defensive end all the more important.

“Today they obviously took advantage of our breakdowns and scored,” Bennett said. “Today the tougher, sounder team on the defensive end won the game.”

Kadin Shedrick scored 16 points and Jayden Gardner had 13 for the Cavaliers, who were hoping to avenge a 67-47 loss last year on the Cougars’ home floor. Houston became the highest-ranked nonconference opponent ever to play Virginia in Charlottesville.

Clark’s steal and layup pulled Virginia within 56-50 with 2:55 to play, but Tramon Mark answered with a 3-pointer for the Cougars, who shot 49% (25-51) against a defense ranked 12th nationally, allowing 57.9 points.

The Cavaliers closed to within 30-28 on Gardner’s basket to open the second half, but the Cougars went on their run, with Walker contributing a three-point play and 3-pointer in the spurt, to lead 40-30.

Virginia scored the first nine points and led 15-7 before going cold. The Cougars outscored them 17-4 over more than 10 minutes to lead 26-19. Houston led 30-26 at halftime.

RARITY

The Cavaliers are the highest-ranked team Houston has faced during the regular season since it met No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 13, 2008.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Cavaliers are likely to fall, but not very far, and Houston’s victory on the road is likely to make voters almost forget their 71-65 loss to Alabama a week ago when the Cougars were No. 1 and the Tide were ranked eighth.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The Cougars arrived with one player, Sasser (16.2), scoring in double figures but had five do it against the Cavaliers. Jamal Shead scored 11 and J’Wan Roberts had 10.

Virginia: The Cavaliers got guard Reece Beekman back after he suffered a hamstring injury in their previous game. Beekman was effective defensively but did not demonstrate the explosive power driving to the basket that typifies his offensive game.

“He didn’t quite have his burst. I thought he was pretty good defensively, not quite as explosive offensively and probably a little fatigued because he hasn’t done much,” Bennett said, adding that Beekman hardly has practiced since the injury.

UP NEXT

The Cougars return home to face McNeese on Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers go on the road to face No. 25 Miami on Tuesday night.

___

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III, right, goes up for a basket as Denver Nuggets guard Jam...
Associated Press

Murray, Jokic help Nuggets hold off Pelicans 122-113

DENVER (AP) — Jamal Murray is locked in right now — with his shot, with his swagger and especially with his confidence in his team. “It’s fun to play basketball,” the Denver point guard said. “But we still have room to improve. We’re not satisfied with where we’re at.” Murray scored 32 points, Nikola Jokic […]
1 day ago
FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) drives past Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker (...
Associated Press

Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her. If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel […]
1 day ago
Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton drives past Charlotte Hornets' Terry Rozier during the second half...
Associated Press

Bucks beat Hornets 124-115 for 5th consecutive victory

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton is making the most of his limited minutes as he works his way back from injuries that kept him from playing for much of the season. Middleton scored 18 points and sparked a third-quarter run that put the Milwaukee Bucks ahead for good as they beat the Charlotte Hornets 124-115 […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George, right, slaps the ball away from Chicago Bulls forward DeMar...
Associated Press

Leonard, Powell lead Clippers past Bulls, 108-103

CHICAGO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 33 points and Norman Powell added 27 to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 108-103 on Tuesday night. Paul George added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who’ve won six of seven. Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Bulls, […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis (3) defends a shot by New York Knicks' RJ Barrett (9) during the ...
Associated Press

James has triple-double, leads Lakers past Knicks in OT

NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James will soon be the NBA’s top scorer, though that was never his focus. He’s also one of the game’s leading passers, and combining the two — possibly better than anyone ever — is what really makes him proud. “I didn’t get to this point in my career by thinking […]
1 day ago
Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24) dunks the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketba...
Associated Press

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jalen Wilson remembers every slight. Every criticism. Every chip that’s landed on his shoulder. You can bet the Kansas forward remembers watching Kansas State fans storm the court after beating the Jayhawks. So with revenge on their mind, Wilson and his pals jumped on the seventh-ranked Wildcats in the rematch Tuesday […]
1 day ago
Walker, defense lead No. 5 Houston past No. 2 Virginia 69-61