No. 14 Houston bounces back from 2 losses, beats UCF 70-52

Houston forward Fabian White Jr. (35) passes the ball against Central Florida during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Justin Rex) (JUSTIN REX, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HOUSTON – Taze Moore had 14 points and seven rebounds, Fabian White Jr. added 12 points, and No. 14 Houston snapped a two-game losing streak with a 70-52 win over Central Florida on Thursday night.

Jamal Shead chipped in 12 points and eight assists, and Kyler Edwards finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Cougars (21-4, 10-2 American Athletic Conference). Houston shot 44% but struggled from behind the arc, going 7 of 23.

“They zoned us tonight,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “I thought our shot selection was outstanding. … We had a couple maybe, but for the most part, I don’t think we took but one bad 3, and that got blocked. Every other 3 was wide open. If we made four more of those, that’s a good shooting night.”

The Cougars outrebounded UCF 47-38 and held a 36-14 advantage in points in the paint.

Houston had lost two straight games for the first time in five years. Before the losing skid, the Cougars were on a 12-game winning streak.

“Every team is going to have ups and downs during the course of the season,” Sampson said. “That’s why I try to educate people about not getting too high when you win games and certainly don’t get too low when you lose them. Playing in these leagues, especially with what these kids have been through this year, you’re going to lose games.”

Darius Johnson and Dre Fuller Jr. each scored 12 points to lead UCF (15-9, 7-7). The Knights shot 28% and made 8 of 26 3-point attempts.

“We had our moments in the game where we were right there, but they’re a strong team,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said. “You have to play a full 40 minutes. If you don’t play a full 40 minutes, they will pull away from you, and that’s what they were able to do.”

UCF cut the lead to one, 45-44, on a 3-pointer by Darius Perry with 12 minutes remaining to cap an 8-0 spurt, but Houston answered with an 11-0 run to build a 56-44 lead on consecutive 3-pointers by Ramon Walker Jr. with nine minutes left.

Houston jumped out to a 17-5 lead, capping off a 13-0 run with a layup by J’Wan Roberts with 11 minutes remaining in the first half, but the Knights responded with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to two on dunk by C.J. Walker with 5:47 left in the first half.

The Cougars led 31-25 at the half.

BIG PICTURE

UCF: The Knights missed 12 straight field goals in the first half and missed 11 straight field goals in the second half. … Johnson and Darius Perry each were issued technical fouls in the second half.

“You give (Houston) credit for that,” Dawkins said. “They make you miss shots. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, and that’s for a reason. They make every shot difficult, and even when we got some open looks, they are so rare and far between, we couldn’t find a rhythm.”

Houston: The Cougars helped their NCAA Tournament resume with the win. … The Cougars finished with 18 assists on 26 made field goals. … Houston finished with eight blocks as a team, led by Josh Carlton and White who had three blocks each.

WHITE’S ACCOLADES

White became the first player in Houston history to compete in 110 wins and tied Galen Robinson Jr. for most games in Houston history with 136.

“It’s great to finally get it out of the way,” White said. “I think my teammates wanted it a little bit more than I did. That shows you how close we are. It’s a blessing. I thank all my coaches and teammates I’ve had over the years.”

FACES IN THE CROWD

NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, New York Knicks guard Quentin Grimes and Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum were among those in attendance.

UP NEXT

UCF: Hosts East Carolina on Sunday.

Houston: Travels to Wichita State on Sunday.

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