No. 1 Houston loses JoJo Tugler to season-ending injury in blow to title chances

Houston freshman JoJo Tugler broke a bone in his right foot and will miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season, coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters Monday. Sampson also confirmed that Tugler will have surgery on Thursday.

“That’s a big hit. Everyone will try to figure out what it means for us,” Sampson said. “But that’s a human being with a broken foot, who’s invested his entire life into this season.”

This is the third season-ending injury for the Cougars this season, who were voted as the No. 1 team in the country in this week’s AP poll, receiving 52 of 60 first-place votes. Sophomore wing Terrance Arceneaux tore his Achilles against Texas A&M in December, and backup guard Ramon Walker tore his meniscus in practice about a week ago.

In 16 minutes per game this season, the 6-foot-7 Tugler averaged 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds. He posted a season-high 13 points in his lone start against Penn on Dec. 30. But it’s on the defensive end where Tugler’s absence is a definite blow to Houston’s title chances.

Tugler was one of the best defensive bigs in the country, even as a backup. He had the third-best plus-minus in Houston’s rotation, meaning the Cougars arguably got better when he came off the bench to replace Ja’Vier Francis. As hard as Houston plays, depth is a necessity and this team’s depth was already thin after losing Arceneaux.

Freshman Cedric Lath is the next man up. He played a season-high 10 minutes in Saturday’s 87-85 win over Oklahoma and recorded two rebounds and one blocked shot. It was the most points and highest efficiency Houston has allowed all season. It’s probably not a coincidence that it was the first game Tugler was out.

Houston (26-3, 13-3 Big 12) has two games left in the regular season, its first in the Big 12. The Cougars are currently atop the conference standings; if they win Wednesday at UCF and Iowa State loses the same night to BYU, Sampson’s team would win the league outright. Houston’s regular-season finale is Saturday, when it hosts Kansas.

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(Photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

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