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No. 3 Houston dominates WVU on defense, opens Big 12 play with 34-point victory

Jan. 6—MORGANTOWN — What transpired inside the Fertitta Center on Saturday was not chess vs. checkers.

West Virginia simply didn't show up with any pieces to play with, regardless of whatever game it was.

L.J. Cryer finished with 20 points, Houston's suffocating defense snuffed out anything the Mountaineers attempted and the third-ranked Cougars made a major statement in their first-ever Big 12 game with an 89-55 victory.

BOX SCORE Along the way, Houston handed WVU its worst loss ever in Big 12 play. The 34-point margin of victory tied WVU's 34-point loss against Texas last season.

"You almost felt like we ran into a buzz saw, " WVU head coach Josh Eilert said in his radio postgame show.

The Mountaineers (5-9, 0-1 Big 12) did just that.

Houston came in with the nation's best defense, but the Cougars (14-0, 1-0) may have been better live than what their numbers said on paper.

WVU was held to just 32 % (18 of 56) shooting, but there is so much more to that story.

As in WVU guard RaeQuan Battle had averaged 27 points a game since he began playing on Dec. 20, but he went more than 37 minutes of a 40-minute game before making his first basket, an impressive dunk that came in transition.

He didn't score a single point until the 15:21 mark of the second half—it came on a free throw—and by that time Houston's lead was already 57-27.

Battle finished with just four points on 1 of 9 shooting, while adding three rebounds.

The larger part of Houston's defense came from the way the Cougars pressured and double-teamed WVU's guards on the perimeter.

WVU was double-teamed so much that, at times, it must have felt like the Cougars were playing with six players rather than five.

"They were doing a really good job with those traps, and we had to get out, " Eilert said. "The ball was sticking. We had to get one more (pass) and take advantage of what they were giving us. We weren't doing that."

Houston certainly took advantage of West Virginia's defense.

Cryer, a transfer from Baylor, had 16 points in the first half, nearly outscoring WVU over the first 20 minutes by himself. He finished 4 of 7 from 3-point range.

And while WVU was forced to make tough shots in one-on-one situations, Houston got whatever it wanted around the rim.

The Cougars outscored the Mountaineers 48-20 in the paint, much of that coming from rim-rocking dunks to nifty reverse lay-ups.

The 89 points was the most scored against WVU this season, as Houston finished 34 of 64 (53.1 %) shooting.

Houston point guard Jamal Shead added 11 assists to go with his eight points. He added to Houston's defensive effort with five rebounds and four blocks.

It was so much of a defensive gem pitched by Houston that Eilert left the arena wanting to take a page out of Houston's playbook for future games.

"They do as good a job as anyone I've seen in the country in closing out, " Eilert said. "Speed, physicality, and as soon as that ball came out, they were out.

"We've got to take a page out of their book in terms of the way they play defensively with a sense of urgency. They were so disciplined on the defensive end."

WVU was led by Pat Suemnick, who came off the bench to finish with a career-high 12 points and five rebounds. He was the only WVU player in double figures.