No. 3 Houston will look to remain in sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference when it faces UCF on Wednesday at Orlando, Fla.
The then-top-ranked Cougars (18-2, 6-1 AAC) saw a nine-game winning streak end with a 56-55 loss to visiting Temple on Sunday. The Knights (13-6, 4-3) dropped their second straight game with an 85-72 setback at South Florida on Saturday.
Trailing 55-48 with 6:37 remaining, Houston went on a 7-0 run to tie the game on J’Wan Roberts’ three-point play with 1:30 remaining. But Damian Dunn split a pair of free throws to give the Owls a 56-55 lead with 1:06 to play.
Jamal Shead missed a 3-pointer on Houston’s ensuing possession, but the Owls committed a shot clock violation with seven seconds to go.
Shead’s driving layup was blocked by Kur Jongkuch with 1.3 seconds left. Tramon Mark missed from close range as time expired after catching Shead’s lob off an inbounds play from under the basket.
“You’re not going to get a better one than that,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I thought the execution was great. Just missed the shot.”
Shead scored a team-high 13 points to go along with five rebounds, while Marcus Sasser added 12 points and five assists. Jarace Walker finished with nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Cougars.
Houston shot 19 of 56 (33.9 percent) from the field, including 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) from 3-point range. However, the Cougars went 11 of 21 from the free-throw line, while Temple went 20 of 22.
“We had a bad day, but we still have a good team,” Sampson said. “All of our dreams and goals are still ahead of us.”
Sasser averages a team-high 16.7 points and 2.0 steals per game, while Mark averages 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Walker averages 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, with Roberts chipping in 9.7 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game.
UCF trailed the Bulls by five at halftime and by as many as 15 in the second half.
Ithiel Horton, who averages 11.9 points per game, scored a team-high 15 against the Bulls. Brandon Suggs, who averages 7.7 points per game, added 13, while Taylor Hendricks, who averages a team-high 14.3 points per game, finished with 12.
“We didn’t defend like we needed to defend,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We can’t give up 85 points. We scored 72 points. In any game that we score that many points, we’re in a position to win the ball game.”
Houston is seeking to knock off UCF for the seventh straight time after a 71-65 win over the visiting Knights on Dec. 31.
The Cougars, who ended the game on a 9-4 run to secure the win, had four double-digit scorers in the teams’ first meeting. Mark scored a game-high 19 points, followed by Sasser (18), Roberts (12) and Shead (11).
Darius Johnson led the Knights with 17 points, with Horton and Hendricks adding 14 apiece and C.J. Kelly finishing with 11.
–Field Level Media