HOUSTON (AP) — Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has made defense a big part of the Cougars’ DNA.
With No. 25 Cincinnati threatening an upset on Houston’s home court, the 12th-ranked Cougars clamped down completely.
Houston held Cincinnati scoreless over the final 6:11, staving off the Bearcats 65-58 on Sunday for a key American Athletic Conference win.
“That’s what coach preaches every day at practice,” DeJon Jarreau said. “We defend and rebound. We go at it, we compete. We try our best to carry it over to the game because that’s our culture. If you aren’t buying into our culture, you aren’t playing.”
Jarreau scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and added eight rebounds and five assists. He scored 11 consecutive points in the second half, including six straight to give Houston a 63-58 lead with 3 ½ minutes left.
“I just took what they gave me,” Jarreau said. “They were on our shooters, so that gave me a lane to go and make a play.”
Corey Davis Jr. also had 16 points. Davis and Jarreau each made free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal it for the Cougars (23-1, 10-1).
“To win as many games as we have, you have to win so many different ways,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I don’t know offensively if there’s a constant with us. If there is a constant, it’s that there is somebody that steps up.”
Houston entered Sunday ranking second nationally in field goal percentage defense, third in 3-point percentage defense and seventh in scoring defense.
“That’s the way we practice,” Sampson said. “Outrebounding teams, defending, whatever action it might be.”
Galen Robinson Jr. had 10 points for Houston, which won its eighth straight and extended its home winning streak to 32 games. Houston shot 49 percent from the field.
Jarron Cumberland scored 27 points on 9-of-25 shooting, and Cane Broome added 10 points for Cincinnati (20-4, 9-2), which had its eight-game winning streak snapped. The Bearcats shot 33 percent from the field, including 27 percent in the second half.
“We came out on the short end of the stick,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “We didn’t finish getting the ball in the basket around the rim. They had nine blocked shots. That was the difference in the game.”
After taking a 58-57 lead on Cumberland’s 3-pointer with 6:11 left, Cincinnati missed its last 11 field goals.
“We missed two front ends of a 1-and-1; we couldn’t finish around the rim,” Cronin said. “Give their defense credit, we didn’t handle it the way we needed to handle it.”
Houston led 34-33 at the half behind Davis’ 11 points.
Cincinnati: Outside of Cumberland, Cincinnati struggled to find scoring. The rest of the Bearcats combined for 31 points on 13-of-41 shooting. Cincinnati forced Houston into 13 turnovers, which led to nine points. Cincinnati committed four turnovers.
Houston: The Cougars were able to use their size to change shots and prevent the Bearcats from getting any easy looks. Brison Gresham had four blocks and the Cougars finished with nine as a team. Houston held a 42-36 advantage in rebounding. Houston held a 32-20 advantage in points in the paint.
Houston could rise into the top 10 after going 2-0 this week. Cincinnati will likely drop out of the rankings.
Cincinnati: Hosts Wichita State on Feb. 17.
Houston: Travels to UConn on Thursday.
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