KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Houston coach Kelvin Sampson could rightfully have shaken his head in despair when J'Wan Roberts lay crumpled beneath the basket, holding his right leg in the opening minutes of the Big 12 Tournament semifinals against Texas Tech.

He had already lost three front-line players to injuries this season. And another was writhing in pain.

Sampson never quite follows the script, though.

Instead, he leaned into his veteran backcourt to get the Cougars into the title game, and L.J. Cryer and Co. responded. The sharpshooter hit six 3-pointers and scored 20 points, Emanuel Sharp poured in 17 and the nation's No. 1 team used a big second half to rout the No. 25 Red Raiders 82-59 on Friday night at T-Mobile Center.

“We all have our share of injuries. I don't know that we ever talk about it or worry about it, win or lose,” said Sampson, who must have felt a little relief - just a little - when Roberts was able to return for a few minutes in the second half.

“I don't get why you need to talk about it, you know? We have a chance to put five on the floor, have a sub or two - keep playing,” Sampson added. “What's the worst that can happen to you? You lose and they put you in jail?"

Putting in jail is a good way to describe what Houston (30-3) did in the second half to Texas Tech, outscoring its old Southwest Conference rival 50-30 to reach the championship game in its first year in its new conference.

The Cougars will play seventh-ranked Iowa State for the Big 12 Tournament title Saturday night.

“It doesn't matter who we play,” Cryer said. “We're happy to be in the championship.”

Chance McMillian scored 15 points and Joe Toussaint had 10 for Texas Tech (23-10), which closed to 40-38 with 16 1/2 minutes to go before Houston ripped off a 17-0 run over the next five minutes to turn a close game into a laugher.

Pop Isaacs, the Red Raiders' leading scorer, was held to six points on 2-for-13 shooting.

“What a fantastic team Houston is,” said Texas Tech coach Grant McCasland, who was missing Darrion Williams because of a sore ankle. “We knew going into the game that we had to play our best to give ourselves a chance to win.”

Houston won the regular-season Big 12 title and has spent the past three weeks atop the AP Top 25 despite a wave of injuries - even before Roberts was hurt - that crippled the front line Sampson expected to have this season.

Terrance Arceneaux was the first to go down with a torn Achilles tendon in December. Ramon Walker Jr. tore the meniscus in a knee in February, and Joseph Tugler broke a bone in his foot about a week later to end his season.

“It's not his knee,” Sampson said of Roberts' injury. “It's kind of around his calf-shin area. I don't know.”

The Cougars compensated for his injury by cinching up their defense, forcing Texas Tech into several shot-clock violations.

The Red Raiders, who started 4 of 21 from the field, briefly found their stride late in the first half. McMillian came off the bench to hit a pair of 3s and score 10 points, and Texas Tech used a 17-5 run to close to 32-29 at the break.

But Houston got an emotional boost, if nothing else, when Roberts limped onto the floor for the second half. And while he only played a few minutes before icing his leg on the bench again, his return coincided with the Cougars' decisive run.

“We just fixed our attitudes,” Cryer said. “We had people not really in the game. Whenever you fix your attitude and change your effort, good things happen. We came out with the right focus.”


Texas Tech had won four straight before Friday night, which means it should have some momentum for the NCAA tourney.

Houston's first loss of the season came against the Cyclones on Jan. 9, though it got some revenge at home last month.


Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.


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

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.